When a teenager gets a driver license, it signifies freedom and the lure of the open road. But with this newfound freedom comes a host of new situations and possible problems that most teen drivers have never encountered before. It’s a good idea to review these scenarios with new drivers in your family, and discuss how to handle them before they happen for real.
From traffic stops to road rage, here’s a primer on what you need to tell teen drivers as they take to the roads.
- What to do when you’re stopped by a police officer
Safely pull to the side of the road, turn off your car, roll down the window and keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves or argue with the officer. Do your arguing in traffic court.
- How to deal with a flat tire
Pull completely off the road, even if it means destroying the tire. Call roadside assistance and let that person change the tire. If you have a spare (many cars now only have an inflation kit) and know how to change the tire, make sure you are out of traffic and in plain sight of oncoming traffic before changing it yourself.
- What to do when the “check engine” light comes on
If there is any change in the car’s performance, any mechanical noises, smoke from the tailpipe or electrical smells, stop the car and call for assistance. If there are none of these symptoms, take the car to a dealer and let them diagnose the problem. However, if you just bought gas, the light might just be indicating that the gas cap is loose. Tighten the cap and continue driving. The light should go off on its own.
- How to deal with a friend who is about to drive under the influence
Don’t get in the car. Do anything not to drive with an intoxicated person, and that includes calling your parents for a lift or paying for a taxi. Your next move is to try to prevent your drunken friend from hurting themselves or someone else.
- What to do after an auto accident
If the car is drivable and there are no serious injuries, turn on your flashers and pull safely out of traffic. Call the police to report the accident. Exchange insurance information with the other driver but refrain from discussing the accident and who is at fault. Make notes and use your cell phone’s camera to take pictures of the cars involved.
- How to drive in rain
Reduce your speed and leave more room between your vehicle and those in front of you. Understand how to handle skids. Understand that a car might hydroplane on a rain puddle on the road and learn how to react to driving with reduced traction and visibility.
- How to avoid road rage situations
Understand the severe consequences to you, your car and your driving record when minor disagreements escalate to life-threatening situations. When someone offends you, take a deep breath and know that your anger will dissolve in minutes. Don’t anger other drivers by cutting them off or tailgating. If you’ve inadvertently angered another driver, don’t get drawn into interacting with them. Ignore them or, if necessary, change your route. Finally, repeat this phrase: It’s just not worth it.
And lastly, but most important of all:
- How to drive safely
Distracted driving is fast becoming one of the country’s biggest health concerns.
As more and more drivers text while on the road, distracted driving crashes are steadily increasing year over year. In fact, the Center For Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 8 people are killed every day in the U.S. as a result of crashes involving a distracted driver.
However, distracted driving doesn’t just mean texting and driving. You can be distracted by one of many activities.
Distracted driving means driving while not fully paying attention to the road. Many people think of texting and driving or talking on the phone when driving; however, you can also be distracted by:
- Reaching for your phone.
- Changing the music.
- Using an app.
- NOTE: There are apps that help fight distracted driving by helping to keep you off your phone while you are behind the wheel.
- Checking your GPS or map.
- Taking a photo.
- Checking email or posting to social media sites.
- Eating and drinking.
- Putting on makeup/grooming.
Even talking to a passenger in your car can be a distraction. You are distracted ANY TIME your mind and/or your eyes are off the road.
Even if it’s just for a brief text, the results can be deadly. Consider the following statistics:
- When you send a text, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. That’s the time it takes to drive the length of a football field going 55 MPH! (U.S. Department of Transportation).
- At any moment during the daylight hours, about 660,000 drivers are handling cell phones or other electronic devices while driving in the U.S. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
- You are 3 times more likely to get into an accident when distracted driving by manipulating a mobile device (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).
While these are all great tips for new drivers, I hope everyone found something of value in it. I know I will be downloading an app for my phone!