We know, we know. It’s insufferable for adults to automatically assume that teens will drive badly. After all, if teenagers don’t start driving and get experience, how will they become experienced drivers?
However, studies show that teens as a whole do not follow the rules of the road as well as older drivers. The CDC reports that “per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.” Those are indisputable facts, but it obviously doesn’t mean that teenagers should avoid driving entirely.
What’s the happy balance? We’re providing a handy checklist of what teenage drivers shouldn’t do on the road. Some are obvious, and some less so. However, if a teenager avoids doing these things, then they will become a much safer driver. These facts can be presented objectively to a teenager and discussed without finger wagging.
- Drink and drive. This one is obvious, but the CDC reports that “in 2013, 17% of drivers aged 16 to 20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of .08% or higher.” That means a lot of drinking and driving is happening among teenagers. Coupled with driving inexperience, the addition of alcohol is a deadly combination.
- Shrug off wearing your seat belt. Again, this should seem obvious, but the Harvard Medical School reports that “Teenagers are less likely than people of other age groups to use seat belts while driving, with disastrous results. In 2004, nearly two-thirds of teenagers who died or were injured in crashes were not wearing a seat belt.” Just put it on. It only takes a few seconds and will likely save your life in an accident.
- Ride with friends in your car. What? But that’s the point of driving, isn’t it? For inexperienced drivers, driving with a group of friends in the car is just too distracting and increases the chance of an accident. Get at least a year’s worth of solo driving experience or occasionally riding with one person before driving groups of friends.
- Talk and text while driving. Study after study shows the horrible consequences of distracted driving, especially when people talk and text. Distracted driving can actually be worse than drunk driving. And that’s for adults who are experienced drivers! Inexperience increases the chance of a distracted driving accident even more. As addictive as that phone may feel, put it away while driving. That text can wait.
- Cruise around at night. Night driving is quite different from daytime driving. Try to avoid night driving or at least get home by 9 or 10 p.m. Many teenagers like the idea of driving late at night because that’s when a lot of thrilling fun happens. At night, many risks increase—from driving hazards to accidentally entering poor-lit, high-crime neighborhoods.
- Speed. Teens can act out impulsively and with high confidence on the roads, including speeding with a feeling of invincibility. At best, a speeding ticket will cost you a lot of money and add points to your license. At worst, you will not have enough time to stop if a car suddenly pulls out in front of you or an obstacle appears in the road.
These factors are the most common causes of teen accidents. Some other “don’t” tips to keep in mind include:
- Don’t cut people off abruptly. You increase the risk of an accident for yourself and put other people’s lives in danger.
- Don’t race or challenge other drivers. There are lot of disturbed, violent people out there. Never challenge a stranger in a car.
- Don’t drive recklessly in bad weather. Slow down and be extra careful when it rains, snows, or thunderstorms.
- Don’t treat a traffic jam like a video game. Face it. You’re stuck in traffic like everyone else. Don’t try to abruptly move ahead by constantly pulling in front of others and cutting people off.
- Don’t use or possess drugs in the car. The penalties are enormous, and the risks are similar to drunk driving.
- Don’t drive on very little sleep. It’s easy for teens to stay up all night and then drive to work in the morning thinking that coffee or an energy drink will keep them sufficiently awake. Your ability to drive decreases significantly on little sleep.
- Don’t tailgate. If the car in front of you abruptly stops, you’re going to have an accident. Plus, tailgating is unnecessarily aggressive and stresses out other drivers.
It’s easy for teenagers to feel a sense of invincibility, and that attitude often extends to driving. Share real stories of accidents that you, your family, or your friends have experienced to drive home the point that driving is dangerous even for experienced drivers. And share or talk about this checklist to review these important points with your teenager to keep them safe on the road.
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