Teach New Drivers These 10 Things to Help Prevent Future Accidents
Are you teaching your teenager to drive? Of all the lessons your children learn from you, driving is the skill that jam packed with the most ominous possibilities. You’re placing an easily distracted, often sleepy, daydreamer who is prone to off-the-chart emotional upheaval behind the wheel of a 3,000 pound killing machine then unleashing them on the unsuspecting public at highway speed. No wonder you’re a little nervous.
Research tells us that teens are at a higher risk for accidents – car crashes are the number-one killer of teens in the US today. This is partly because they have relatively little driving experience, but probably more because they are not accustomed to staying focused on one task for extended periods of time. While they have the reflexes of a jungle cat, they can occasionally demonstrate the attention span of a gnat. Teenagers get distracted. Couple that capacity for distraction with their limited actual driving experience, and the potential for disaster mushrooms.
They may feel invincible – it goes with teenage territory– but they are still your babies and you know they are fragile in spite of their bluster. How do you impress upon them the importance critical driving skills without entirely extinguishing their youthful enthusiasm? Along with the basic mechanics of the skill, try introducing the following basic concepts, then drilling them in relentlessly throughout the process. This may help to produce a safer driver in the end.
When you’re behind the wheel, you are totally responsible for the lives of everybody else around you.
It may seem like an unreasonably heavy burden to pay for the privilege of driving a car, but driving is a deadly serious responsibility. You owe 100 percent of your attention to driving safely in order to protect yourself, your own passengers, the passengers in other vehicles, and nearby pedestrians.
Bring your A-Game.
Never drive when you’re sleepy or otherwise impaired or upset. Driving is primarily a function of the brain. You need 100 percent of your brain engaged with your task in order to drive safely. Also, friends don’t let friends drive angry. Leave aggression and drama on the curb – aggressive drivers account for about a third of all accidents.
Constantly scan for hazards around you
Part of your job as driver is to anticipate trouble. In order to do this well, you must constantly be on the look-out for potential problems. Children playing in a park can mean a ball might bounce into the street followed by an excited child. Can you stop in time? When you see a car that weaves in and out of traffic, will it stray into your lane next? What will you do? Your mind needs to be full of possibilities when you drive, and ways to avoid collisions before they happen.
Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel
You need to be alert and ready for any instant change around you. At 65 miles per hour a small mistake can become a disaster in a heartbeat – a rollover, a rear-end collision, a ten car pile-up. You need to see it coming in order to protect yourself and those around you.
Big Rigs can mean big trouble
The commercial trucks who share the road with you can make driving even more difficult. Because of their size and weight, they cannot possibly stop as fast as you can, or get around obstacles quickly. When you’re on the road, understand that these big guys need a lot of space around them. Know they cannot see you if you are too close behind or in front of them. Know also that they can crush you like a bug if you don’t make allowances for them.
Always keep an eye out for motorcycles – expect them to be everywhere…
…because they are. Motorcycles have a way of darting in and out of traffic appearing out of nowhere and startling otherwise cautious drivers. They have the same rights as you do on the open road so you need to watch for them and understand that they are not nearly as predictable as other cars are.
Drive defensively at all times.
You share the road with people who are not paying attention. Not everybody is as careful as you’ve learned to be. Expect them to make turns without signaling. Expect them to change lanes without warning. If you always expect them to do the unexpected, you won’t be caught off guard.
Maintain safe following distances
At highway speed, things happen fast. Because you cannot actually know what the person in front of you might do, you need to follow at a safe distance in order to have the time you need to stop in time. If there is a rear-end collision, the person behind will probably be blamed. Don’t let that be you.
Follow Signage Faithfully
A stop isn’t a roll through. A stop sign requires a complete cessation of motion. The speed limit is the speed limit. Traveling just a little over the posted limit is still breaking the law and will earn you a ticket. Yield means yield and construction speeds are slower on purpose.
Of all the things you must avoid while you’re driving, distractions are the ones that can kill you first. Distractions are a factor in 80 percent of all car crashes and 25 percent of all fatalities on the road. As tempting as it is to multi-task while driving, don’t. Some of the most common culprits to avoid are:
- Adjusting sound system
- Using cell phones
- Eating – pick up the French fry on the floor after you’ve pulled over.
- Horseplay with passengers
Good drivers are attentive drivers – be one and stay safe.