Teen Driver’s Safety: How to Teach Your Teen to be a Good Driver for Life
posted in: Our Community + Personal Injury
With school back in session, now is a good time to discuss the specific risks teen drivers face while on the road. While your teen may think messaging a friend at a stoplight, digging into their bag of fast food while driving, choosing the next song, or even joking around with other passengers in the car is innocent, these high-risk behaviours have become the top cause of accidents.
Most driver education programs only cover the basic rules of the road. Parents with an active role in their children’s driver education are half as likely to crash, 70% less likely to drink and drive, and 30% less likely to talk or text on a phone while driving. By encouraging and educating your teen on how to make better decisions while behind the wheel, you can help lower the possibility of them being involved in an accident.
Having an honest and frank discussion with your child about good/bad habits, dangers while driving, and setting firm family vehicle rules can be the difference between your teen being involved in or avoiding an accident. You might also consider explaining to them what happens to their insurance rates in the event of an accident. Knowing the actual cost and clarifying “who” will be paying for that increase can be very motivating. This post summarizes topics to discuss with your teen before they start driving solo.
While the rates of distracted driving convictions for the 16-19 age bracket are comparatively quite low, it has to be noted that that young male drivers, from age 22 to 34 years old have the highest distracted driving conviction rates in Alberta. Drivers in this age bracket may have years of bad habit, that were not addressed in their early driving years. Distracted driving now contributes to 8 in 10 collisions. Ensuring good driving behaviors are instilled in our young drivers is vital to lowering the risk of driving behind the wheel.
Distracted driving isn’t just texting while driving. Eating a snack, applying makeup, or even talking with passengers all lead to distractions behind the wheel. Modern infotainment systems combined with the teenage imperative to DJ a playlist mixes for a particularly dangerous distraction. Talk to your teen about giving driving their full attention, even when stopped at a red light. While probationary drivers in Alberta are allowed to have more than one passenger in the car, your family might want to make a rule that your teen is only allowed one passenger in the car until they become a fully licensed driver.
While your child can’t control the driving habits of those around them, they can avoid danger by practicing defensive driving. Defensive driving is about navigating the road in an anticipatory way that reduces the risk of collision. Some defensive driving guidelines are:
- 3-Second Rule – This rule of thumb states that a driver should maintain a 3-second distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. This technique gives the driver a safe trailing distance, which gives them time to judge when to stop in case the driver in front of them makes an erratic or unexpected movement.
- Making Yourself Visible – You can avoid collisions by ensuring your family vehicle has working signal lights, headlights, and taillights. Also, teach your teens about blind spots, not just checking theirs, but being aware when they’re in another driver’s.
- Active Eyes – Defensive driving isn’t just about looking ahead. Scan your conditions ahead and around you, and check your mirrors frequently. When driving with your teen, ask them to name potential dangers around you, like bicyclists, animals, and pedestrians. Tell them about the dangers that you are seeing.
- Anticipate the Worst Case – Encourage your teen to be considerate of other drivers, but ultimately rely on their own skill when behind the wheel. This can be looking both ways when driving through an intersection even if another driver is waiving them on. That other driver may not see someone running a red. Teach them how to react in case an approaching vehicle drifts into their lane, i.e., how to deal with other distracted drivers in a way that won’t potentially cause an accident. It also takes experience to learn that some turn signals are simply red herrings.
Bad Weather and Nighttime Driving
Alberta can have unpredictable weather at the best of times. Competent drivers should know how to drive in whatever nature throws at us. New drivers are especially vulnerable in poor weather conditions because they haven’t had experience navigating the roads in heavy rain, snow, and ice, or fog. When taking an active role in teaching your teen to drive, ensure you’re practicing with them in all kinds of weather. If your teen is nervous driving in bad weather conditions, start in your neighbourhood, on a quiet back road, or in an icy parking lot. The more confident (and cautious) they are driving in all weather, the less susceptible they will be to an accident.
Practice driving at night with your teen. Driving in the dark requires another set of skills, as our field of vision is smaller. Encourage your teen to take their time and be aware of the oncoming glare from the headlights ahead and what to do if the oncoming driver does not turn down their high beams. Also take the time to familiarize your new driver with the neighbourhood they’ll be driving in. If they know the turns and bends in the road, they will be able to anticipate any problems they might experience in bad weather or at night. Keep in mind that younger people actually see better in low-light conditions. Their young eyes working with your experienced brain offer a better combination for safety purposes.
Lead by Example and Ask Questions
Like many things our children learn how to do, they pick it up from their parents. Practice what you preach! Model safe driving, and while your teen is a passenger don’t hesitate to explain to them your thought process behind any driving decisions you make. For example, if you’re driving toward a yellow light, explain why you chose to stop and not run through it. By getting your teen thinking why certain driving behaviors aren’t safe, they’ll have those top of mind when driving alone. While mobile devices are a distraction for us all, know that succumbing to these distractions can be interpreted as a license for misconduct by your kids.
To help ingrain these habits into your teen while they’re driving, instead of telling them what they’re doing wrong, try asking them questions about their behavior. Try saying “Are you in a school zone?” instead of “You’re going too fast in this school zone, slow down!”. This will encourage them to think through their actions and correct them.
Remember, your role as a driving coach and a parent is to walk your child through the basics of driving, and encourage them to take ownership of this new skill. If you’re prepared, calm, and patient, you can make a huge difference in your teens’ driving, both now and into the future. However, if your child does get into an accident, it can help to have the assistance of a lawyer who will advocate for you and your family. Contact our law office today for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.