As a parent of a soon-to-be driver, you’re probably worried that even after your teen earns a learner’s permit and passes the driving exam, he or she will not be as concerned about safety as you are. Before you hand over the keys, make sure they follow these sensible rules.
Regularly Refresh Your Driving Theory
In a traditional classroom driver’s education course, the material is often presented in a way that’s dry and uninteresting. Your teen is probably either trying to stay awake because the class is scheduled before school or anxious to leave the building since it’s scheduled at the end of the school day.
Driver education courses are also available online or on mobile apps, and they allow students to learn at their own pace at a time that’s most convenient for them. If your teen already has a license, it still may be a good idea to download the app. Your teenager can periodically check in to learn about new rules or test current knowledge. The driver’s education course on the Zutobi app is neither dry nor boring. It’s built like a game to keep students challenged and motivated to learn more. In a state like California, where the learner’s manual is dense and hard to get through, Zutobi offers bite-sized lessons and practice tests that make it easier to learn what it actually takes to pass the California permit test.
Maintain a Proper Following Distance to Other Vehicles
New drivers often don’t understand how difficult it is to stop suddenly, and that maintaining a proper following distance can give them the space they need to hit the brakes without crashing into the car in front of them.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) echoed the concern about following too closely, stating that teenagers are less likely than adults to leave enough space between their car and the one in front of them. Besides not being able to stop quickly, tailgating (as this behavior is termed) can also:
- Make it difficult to be aware of all road conditions since it’s difficult to see beyond the car directly in front of yours
- Cause multiple car crashes due to the chain reaction that happens when the first vehicle rear-ends the one in front
- Aggravate the driver ahead, which can distract the other driver or lead to road-rage
The safe distance rule-of thumb is to leave two seconds of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
Avoid “Critical Errors” While Driving
In 75% of severe car crashes where a teenager was driving, the crash occurred because the teen made a critical driving error. In over half of those crashes, the teen was:
- Driving too fast for road conditions
- Not scanning surroundings for potential hazards
- Distracted by something either inside or outside of the car
Remind teens that their focus must always remain on operating the vehicle, and that they should always be prepared for road conditions that may lead to losing control of the car.
Don’t Use Your Mobile Phone While Driving
A poll conducted by AAA showed that 94% of teenage drivers understood the dangers of texting and driving. Unfortunately, despite knowing it’s a bad idea, 35% still text and drive. When teens use their phone to either talk or text while driving, they’re four times more likely than adults to cause a fatal crash.
Nearly one-quarter of teen drivers involved in a fatal car crash were distracted by their phones. Most probably think they can easily respond to a text without missing a beat. However, the time it takes to answer a text is equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour!
Drive at a Speed Safe for Conditions
One of the critical errors mentioned above was driving too fast for road conditions. Some drivers use the number on the speed limit sign to calculate how far above that speed they can drive without getting pulled over. But the speed limit number posted is actually the maximum speed you’re permitted to drive.
In any case, the speed limit doesn’t take into account road conditions which may make it necessary to slow down. Driving isn’t a game where you see how much you can get away with. Lives are at risk, and there will be times when you’ll have to slow down your vehicle for safety reasons.
Always Signal Before Changing Lanes or Turning
Some drivers assume it won’t be a problem if they fail to use their turn signals. They figure they can sneak into the next lane before the driver behind has to use the brake. Others believe it’s not a big deal if they don’t indicate when they’re planning to turn. But in each of these circumstances, the driver is making a lot of assumptions about the other drivers on the road.
The Society of Automotive Engineers reports that drivers who don’t signal cause 2 million accidents each year. It doesn’t take much of an effort to use your signal, and it’s a courtesy to all other drivers on the road to warn them of the actions you plan to take.
Check Your Mirrors Often
Your car’s mirrors can tell you so much about what’s going on behind or on either side of your vehicle. If you plan to change lanes, you’ll need that information to gauge when it’s safe to do so. You should check your mirrors every 3-5 seconds before and after you change lanes.
Even from a parked position, you should check your back and side mirrors to know when it’s okay to pull away from the curb. Using your mirrors properly is a skill that must be practiced, as is knowing how to adjust them.
Look Far Ahead of Your Vehicle
While driving, you should be looking far enough ahead of your vehicle to be prepared for conditions ahead. As stated earlier, you may not have time to react if you’re forced to make a sudden stop. Scanning ahead to notice that cars are at a standstill will give you enough time to slow down and avoid rear-ending the car in front of you.
Aim to scan one-quarter mile ahead of you when driving on the highway and about two blocks ahead when you’re driving in the city or suburbs.
Prepared Driving is Safe Driving
Not mentioned above are some other important rules to remember, such as what you should do if traffic lights are not working or what those flashing traffic lights mean. Eventually, the rules become second nature, but it may take some time to learn all that’s needed to drive with skill.
Remind your teen that driving is a privilege. It offers a great deal of freedom, but demands an equal amount of responsibility. It’s a tradeoff that’s well worth it. Just make sure that your teen is knowledgeable about driving risks and is committed to respecting the rules that make all of us safer on the road.
Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.