A lot of the talk around teen driver safety focuses on the big, obvious risks - like using a cellphone behind the wheel, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But, the truth is, most teens already know these behaviors are dangerous.
By focusing so much on drinking and texting, we miss out on the opportunity to talk about the more common risks that teen drivers face every day. The sheer fact of inexperience can cause good, smart kids to get into very dangerous situations.
If you have a teen driver in your life, take some time to talk to them about these three issues.
1. Driving too fast
Speeding is the number one cause of single-car crashes. Teens speed not because they're intentionally trying to take risks, but because they don't understand how speed impacts reaction time or their ability to control the vehicle.
A lot of kids see a wide-open road as a hazard-free zone. As adults, we know this isn't true. All it takes is one patch of ice, or one too-fast turn to send a car flying off the road. Talk to your kids about the real risks of speeding.
2. Following too closely
At highway speeds, it can take more than 150 feet for a car to come to a complete stop. Many teen drivers don't leave enough distance between themselves and the car in front of them. This is a common cause of rear-end accidents.
Part of the problem comes from teens (particularly boys) driving too aggressively. But a lot of it happens simply because young drivers don't have the experience necessary to properly judge how much space to leave.
Teach teens the "three second rule." When the car in front of you passes a stationary object (like a tree or road sign), start counting. It should take at least three seconds for your car to reach the same object. Leave even more space when it's icy, rainy or dark.
3. Not being aware of their environment
Safe driving requires constant vigilance. You always need to be on the lookout for other drivers, kids playing, people walking their dog and any other hazard that might appear.
A lot of teens get into accidents happen because they didn't see things coming. They didn't notice the car ahead of them stopping, they didn't see the pedestrian trying to cross the street, or didn't notice a stop sign until it was too late. Help your teen learn to consistently scan the environment around them. Minimizing other distractions - like loud music, rowdy passengers, or talk about stressful things - can help teens learn to focus on the road ahead.