teenage drivers

Drivers Education from Experience

Passing a driver’s test and getting an official drivers license is only the first step in car ownership. All the little details from written laws to unwritten, much gets missed in driver’s education. Here are a few tips to help you or your young driver with the things they didn’t teach you in school.

There are many unwritten rules of the road that are learned from empirical education.

  • Flashing headlights – Fast flashes of headlights is a way to warn of a serious concern ahead such as a car accident or major road hazard. Some people will also flash their headlights to warn that they aren’t planning to slow down which is often a behavior of aggressive driving, however in the rare case of a busy intersection with a large vehicle such as a semi-truck, the truck driver may flash their headlights to warn that they aren’t able to stop the vehicle as the light turns from yellow to red. Many drivers will flash their lights once to warn of a speed trap, this is illegal in many states and honestly unethical. Speeding causes accidents and those who speed need a reminder to slow down. A headlight flash is also used sometimes to warn you that your headlights aren’t on or that you have a vehicle issue such as a low tire.

  • Stopping at a red light isn’t an opportunity to check your phone. Don’t hit the gas when the light turns green but be ready to go. If the person in front of you doesn’t take off the second the light turns, don’t immediately honk. It’s rude and aggressive, give them a few seconds before sending one quick reminder.

  • When it’s safe to do so, let people into your lane. On the same note, when you see that your lane is about to end get over, if you rudely rush up to the merging point no one will want to let you in.

Common courtesy

  • Unless your vehicle uses diesel, avoid the few pumps at the gas station that provide diesel.

  • If you are at a busy gas station and plan to go inside after filling up, drive your vehicle to a parking spot so that others can fill up.

  • Give a thank you wave when people are nice.

  • If you have to drive much slower than the speed limit, stay in the right lane, use your hazard lights and when safe pull over to let others pass.

Prevent the wreck

  • Don’t tailgate. It’s not just annoying to the person in front of you, it’s not safe. If the person in front of you is forced to hit their brakes you have no where to go but into them. Keeping a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you prevents unintentional accidents, this is ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT when you are driving behind a motorcycle.

  • We were all taught to use our turn signals, however too many seem to think this is only necessary to prevent getting a ticket. Turn signals are a warning to the people driving around you that you are about to slow down or merge. By not using them you are increasing the chance of being hit by another car.

  • Stop signs aren’t suggestions. You have to stop and look for pedestrians that are about to walk or ride their bike in front of you. Blind hills and driveways are called blind, because no matter how much x-ray vision you may think you have, you won’t be able to see oncoming vehicles until you stop at the sign.

  • Don’t pass on the right and unless you are passing or about to make a left turn, stay out of the left lane. The left lane is needed for emergency vehicles to safely and quickly arrive at their destination. When you see or hear an emergency vehicle, immediately get out of the way. Someone’s life is dependent upon that firefighter, EMT and or police officer getting to them as quickly as possible.

  • Stay off your phone, again this is common knowledge, and yet there are 1.6 million accidents every year caused from cell phone use while driving.  Drivers who use their phones are even more impaired than drivers under the influence of alcohol. Bottom line, don’t allow any distractions, no phones, no alcohol, no carload of friends.

Be prepared…always

  • Every car should have the following:

    • An emergency first aid kit, a blanket, a window glass breaker, current insurance card, a flashlight and a map.

    • If you are in an accident pull over, stay calm and follow these steps before leaving the scene of the accident.

Keeping Teenage Drivers Safe on the Road

Having a teenage driver in the family might just be the most terrifying part of your child transitioning into an adult. Many teens are involved in several extracurricular activities in their school, have jobs and always a busy social life.  My husband and I scrounged up enough money to buy our son an old pickup truck when he was in high school mainly so he could get our daughter back and forth to school for band practice, tennis, student council and seemingly a hundred other obligations. Where most of us as parents can relate to and remember our high school days being a life of constant doing and little sleeping, those of us that did have cars had fewer distractions simply because the technology wasn’t there yet. 

My parent’s minivan had a bag phone in 1990. I never used it, I can’t even remember why- maybe it cost too much to make a call. Either way, I could have never imagined that when my own children became teenagers, they and everyone they knew would have their own phone always on their person.

Any distraction is a potential accident for any driver, though for someone who is still learning the ropes it’s tenfold. The radio, eating, and passengers could all result in a wheel jerk or slam to the brake. A text, a phone call, a notification from social media or a video game yelling at your teen to make his/her move is a new kind of distraction. The kind that nightmares can be made of.

A recent NBC news report refers to the beginning of summer as “The 100 Deadliest Days” for teenage drivers.  The video is primarily based on AAA statistics which state that “16 & 17-year-olds are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash and those fatal accidents involving teens jumps 15% over the summer”.

So what can you do as a parent to help keep your teen safe? My husband always says “Nothing good happens after eleven”. He based our teen’s curfew on that believing that by eleven the roads became an even more dangerous place to be. Beyond finger-crossed parenting, the same technology that brought our kids the smart phone has also brought us as parents “apps for that”.  OnlineDriversEd.com has a list of the best apps for parents to keep track of their driving and smartphone use. Some block calls and texts during driving while some notify parents when their teen exceeds the speed limit or breaks a driving law. The site warns that even an app to prevent an accident could become its own distraction. As a parent, I also wonder if there’s a point of being too invasive into a teenagers life. Gauging between a possible life threatening situation and letting them learn to make good choices on their own is hard. I experienced those nights where I sat in the living room at midnight with a cup of coffee in one hand and my phone in the other waiting for my teen to walk in the door or send the prayed for text, “Mom I’m okay”.  We didn’t have the technology then that we have today, and that was only three to five years ago.

So let’s look at the numbers; “11 teens die each day due to texting and driving. 21% of teens involved in a fatal accident were distracted by their cell phones” –AAA. 

Here’s another thought to take into consideration, it’s not just our teens who are being distracted by that world at our fingertips. A 2014 USA Today article (the most recent on the topic) states that 26% of all accidents are related to smartphone use. According to ATT’s It Can Wait, 7 out of 10 people are using their smartphones while driving, 10% on a video chat and a shocking 17% taking “selfies”.

Accidents happen.  Cars can be repaired. Turn the phone off and enjoy the scenery! Lives are precious- we can all do a better job to get everyone home…safe and sound.

Blog Author:  Audrey Elder, Past to Present Research, LLC