Defensive Driving For Teenagers
You remember when you finally became licensed to drive and the feeling of freedom that came with it?
The harsh reality is that the first year may be the most exciting for a new driver but also the most dangerous. In fact, more teenagers die in car related crashes than any other reason. The number of teen deaths related to car crashes outnumbers the number of teen deaths by suicide and homicide COMBINED.
What can parents do? There has to be some way to help our kids make better decisions and become more defensive drivers.
Well, we need to identify some of the root causes of the problem. These are by no means all the causes, but some of the most contributing.
- Not enough practice
- Attention span and distractions
- Peer Pressures
Not enough practice driving
If your teen is like mine, he was a good driver the first day he got the learner’s permit. Of course over the following few weeks, he found himself in situations where it was clear, even to him, that he was not fully prepared to handle some of the situations that were presented to him. Those humbling moments were great teaching opportunities for me to share defensive driving tactics.
Mistakes were made, sometimes by my teen and sometimes by the others around him. While going over the scenarios that had just happened, I had to make sure he fully understood that the conversations were not about right vs. wrong (at least not yet). It was about not crashing, no putting anyone and himself at risk and keeping anyone from getting hurt or killed regardless of who was right.
He needed to understand that his inexperience was something he had to accept and be extra cautious and diligent while driving. Things like scanning the intersection, waiting extra time when your light turns green, backing off someone slower and most of all paying attention for a prolonged amount of time – all things that have to be practiced, not just read about in a book.
Please make sure you drive with your teen as often as possible.
Distractions while driving
As if a new driver doesn’t have enough to process, they have distractions all around them. By now everyone should know that you cannot drive and use the phone or any other handheld device at the same time. Everyone has seen the horrific public service announcements where texting while driving was the cause of the accident.
But the distractions can be even more entrenched than any new techno gizmo. Music too loud, eating while driving, trying to carry on a heated conversation with someone else in the car. These are old distractions but just as deadly.
Peer pressure in the car
The first thing any newly licensed driver wants to do is….show someone, drive someone, somewhere, maybe a first date, a BFF, a sibling, anyone who cares to get in that car! Especially with peers, the situation can get pretty chaotic, very quickly. The teen driver may even have a hard time controlling the situation. The problem is that passengers get hurt just as much as the driver and sometime more. Several scientific research studies show that for the first 24 weeks, teen drivers should not have any young passengers in the car at all.
Remember, before your teen gets their license and for at least the first year after being licensed, practice, practice, practice. The rest of the times, set a good example for him or her while you are driving. Defensive driving is a life-long skill that should not be taken lightly.
There are several programs out there that can help any parent and teen and some are fantastic!
Drive it Home – “Our goal is to reduce the number of teen driving deaths, teen injuries and teen crashes to zero. Any other number isn’t good enough.” http://www.driveithome.org
Teen Safe Driving Blog – “…We’ll help you find the very best information, experts and resources to help you influence your teens’ driving behavior and the state laws that protect them.”
The HEARTS network