5 Common Mistakes of Teenage Drivers
Justin Sheldon—May 5, 2017
Did you know motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers between the ages of 16 and 20? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,886 drivers aged 15-20 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015, and statistics say teens are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash than adults. To protect teen drivers, we’ve compiled a list of the common mistakes most new drivers make, and how to avoid them.
1. Distracted Driving
Studies have shown teen drivers are more likely to drive distractedly than most other drivers. Distracted driving is anything that physically, mentally, or visually distracts the driver, though it is most commonly associated with cell phone use. Teens have a notorious reputation for texting and driving, which is one of the most dangerous things a driver can do.
To ensure your teen driver stays safe, encourage them to remove distractions before they drive. They can set the radio or music player to a playlist they like before they begin driving, put the phone in the dashboard so they won’t be tempted to pick up, and take care of any cosmetic necessities before getting in the car.
Teen drivers are more likely to speed, according to data collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Encourage your teen to abide by designated speed limits and other traffic laws. Also, new drivers may not always understand that during unsafe road conditions or weather changes, such as high winds or snow, should warrant slower driving speeds.
3. Failing to Wear a Seatbelt
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the teens and adults who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014 were not wearing their seatbelts. The commonality here is unmistakable, not wearing a seatbelt is a pointless, deadly risk. Make sure your teen understands the consequences of not wearing a seatbelt, both for the sake of safety and because it is against the law.
4. Driving with Friends
Speaking with another person, even if it is perfectly legal, can still be very dangerous, especially for new drivers who are just getting a feel for their new wheels. Studies have proven that when teens drive with other teens they can actually be more distracted than they would be while texting.
As a parent of a teen, you can monitor your child’s driving ability and, after they are lawfully permitted to do so, decide in your own time when your teen is ready to drive with another teen in the car. Or, encourage your teenager to ask their passengers not to distract him or her while they drive.
5. Taking Unnecessary Risks
New drivers are not always the best judges of distance, speed, or other basic traffic aspects that other, more experienced, drivers can gage somewhat easily. By forgetting to check blind spots, not using turn signals, or attempting to turn into quickly-approaching traffic, teenage drivers can seriously endanger themselves and others. Increase your teen’s chances of safety by encouraging them not to take risks, and make sure they understand all of the important aspects of defensive driving.
Driving always comes with an inherent risk, but taking certain precautions can help prevent unnecessary accidents, improving road safety for teens and everyone else. While DMV and other driving school educators do what they can, much of the education about road safety for teens must be learned at home. Discussing these 5 common mistakes with your teen and asking how they will avoid each danger can help instill in them safe driving techniques to keep them out of harm’s way and allow you to rest easy.
After graduating, cum laude from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2011, Justin Sheldon began his legal career with a large national firm doing high-stakes business litigation. He soon moved on to a boutique firm specializing in auto products liability litigation throughout the United States.