Many parents worry about their new teen drivers becoming distracted on the road—especially as smartphone ownership is the norm for today’s teens. However, teaching teens to be mindful while driving and gain the experience needed to become defensive drivers is integral to ensuring that young drivers stay safe behind the wheel.
Driver’s education courses are prevalent online for teens. While these instructional curricula help teens learn driving basics and safety, they might not teach self-awareness and defensive techniques on the road. Learning the basics of the road and traffic laws help teens pass written and driver’s tests, but the nuances of driving—those on-the road lessons that only experience can reveal—are what may help keep teens from becoming a statistic.
Thankfully, many organizations offer driving instruction that helps teens learn these defensive techniques. Driver’s ed won’t teach a teen how to navigate a car when it hydroplanes through water, how to safely drive in dangerous conditions, or even how to negotiate traffic dilemmas. These are all situations, however, that young drivers must learn before they are confronted with them on the road. Panic is a dangerous—and potentially fatal—reaction behind the wheel. But when a teen or experienced driver can keep a level head on the road, they may be able to safely navigate a dangerous situation.
The Driver’s Edge program is one of many that aim to lower the number of crashes among young drivers through the instruction of defensive driving techniques. Driver’s Edge puts young drivers into the driver’s seat to experience some of the dangerous situations they may encounter on the road. The program’s instructors are race car drivers who help young drivers learn to navigate skidding, ABS braking, lane changing to avoid crashes and more.
Parents who don’t have access to professional driving courses can still teach their teens the art of defensive driving. Taking young drivers to a secluded parking lot after a rain or snow storm can help teach drivers how to handle their vehicle in inclement weather. They also can experience skidding or sliding in a controlled area, without worrying about a potential crash.
A safety checklist also may be beneficial. This checklist doesn’t just detail what teens need to know behind the wheel, but, rather, what parents must remember to teach young drivers. So what does your young driver need to know beyond the basics? Our defensive driving checklist sums-up the lessons that every parent or guardian must ensure teens and young drivers learn before driving solo:
1. ABS braking.
Driver’s Edge focuses on teaching ABS braking techniques for a reason. When a driver hits the brakes on a car equipped with ABS, the system engages and the driver feels a sense of skidding. This can be scary for a young driver who assumes that hitting the brakes hard will elicit an immediate stop. All young drivers should exercise stopping the car with ABS. Parents, again, should ensure drivers practice in a remote area to prevent any crashes. Allow teens to feel what happens when the brakes engage, and teach them how to brake efficiently.
2. Keeping a safe distance.
The rule of thumb for driving is that there should be at least three to five seconds between your car and the one in front of you. Keeping a safe distance ensures that drivers have enough distance between the car in front of them if they must stop suddenly. Keeping a safe distance is essential to safety—especially on highways and high-speed areas.
3. Handling a vehicle in bad weather.
Losing control of the car during bad weather is frightening if a driver is unprepared. Practice driving in all weather conditions, and have young drivers stop and maneuver during driving exercises. Allow them to experience sliding in a safe area, because they need to know how to react when they are faced with the issue on the road.
Young drivers should not be challenging the speed limit. This should be an understood and well applied rule of the road. One of the biggest challenges for young drivers, however, is maintaining a consistent speed. Before drivers head onto major highways and byways, be sure they know how to maintain their speed.
5. Passing and changing lanes.
Some vehicles pose a safety hazard on the road, and young drivers should make an effort to not be near them on the road. All young drivers must also learn how to pass another vehicle safely; this means passing on the left (never the right!). And young drivers should only pass a vehicle that poses a threat on the road—swerving, inconsistent speeds or driving too slow. Changing lanes also is a must to avoid crashes. Have teens practice techniques to ensure they feel comfortable and safe on the road. Just be sure to practice when highways or other roads aren’t congested—avoid rush hours and holidays.
6. Vehicle emergencies.
At some point, a tire will pop or another issue will arise with a vehicle. Teens must know how to safely pull over when a vehicle emergency occurs. All drivers also should also learn how to change a tire and check oil. While many insurance providers offer roadside assistance, sometimes the wait is long. Drivers should be able to manage emergencies when and if necessary.
These defensive driving tips are not an exhaustive list of every technique that young drivers must learn. No matter what tips and defensive driving techniques your family focuses on when it comes to driver safety, incorporate all safe driving rules and regulations in a Safe Driving Contract to ensure that your family’s rules of the road are understood and followed. Teens should sign this contract and have a copy for reference. Your family’s contract also should stipulate the consequences for any violations, because driving is a privilege…not a right!
Want to start protecting your teen and teaching good driving habits today? Check out Focus by TeenDrive!