School is almost out! And with that, teens are taking advantage of the break from studies to take their Drug and Alcohol course and permit exam. It is a great time to get started on driving practice. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the extra time off and summer sunshine to practice new driving skills. However, summer isn’t quite as carefree as it seems. There are more fatal accidents during the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day than any other time of the year. All drivers, especially new drivers, should take extra care to drive defensively this summer.
If you are a parent, consider setting important driving guidelines for your teens. To set expectations, you and your teen can sign a parent/teen agreement to lay out any consequences for violating rules. This sample agreement and other helpful parent resources are available on our website.
If your teen is planning to practice behind the wheel this summer, help them to focus on basic driving techniques and good driving habits:
- Buckle up for safety.
- Practice driving in different weather conditions, and times of day: sunny and rainy driving conditions as well as some practice driving after dark. For more tips on driving in wet weather, check out our blog post Spring Has Sprung – Drive Safe in those April Showers.
- Hazard recognition is important. Keep your eyes on the road and practice scanning ahead to prepare for upcoming hazards such as animals crossing the road, potholes, construction zones and more.
And remember, teens often look to their parents or guardians for examples and will pick up on any of your own bad driving habits. Set a good example by turning off or silencing the ringer on your phone, keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, and maintaining a safe speed and following distance. Practice makes perfect!
As anyone who has completed the Drug & Alcohol course knows, a texting driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident than a non-texting driver. We all know that, in theory, a simple distraction – such as reading a text message or answering your cell phone can lead to devastating consequences if you’re behind the wheel. But, have you ever stopped to really consider just how much a few seconds of taking your eyes off the road to send a text can make a difference?
Just in time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the NHTSA has launched new videos to show us just how dangerous distracted driving can be (Distraction.gov).
Here is an example of one of the new videos, which drives home the point that if you are texting, you’re not driving. What do you think?
Visit NHTSA’s YouTube channel to view the rest of the videos in the campaign. Then, report back! Let us know in the comments – which do you think is the most powerful?
April 1st signals the start of nationally recognized Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The goal of this event is to increase awareness of what happens when people don’t pay attention to the road while behind the wheel. In 2015 alone, 3,477 individuals were killed and 391,000 were injured in distracted driving crashes (Distraction.gov). As an online driver education provider, we here at GDL Institute, we take special care to instruction teenagers about safe driving habits. Young drivers face increased risk of becoming distracted. Cell phone use is highest among drivers aged 16-24. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted (Distraction.gov).
So what are the most common distractions? Drivers can be easily distracted by talking or texting on their phones, changing the radio station, applying makeup, eating, or even engaging in conversations with passengers in the vehicle.
Here are some tips to help condition yourself, or your teen driver, to focus on the road:
Be prepared before you begin your journey. Adjust your mirrors, seat, radio, and climate control and input your destination info into the GPS, before you begin driving.
- Eat before you drive. This way, you won’t be tempted to snack while you are behind the wheel.
- Turn off the ringer on your phone while you driving and place your phone out of reach. Out of sight, and out of mind. You can check any messages once you have reached your destination.
- Talk to your teenagers about distracted driving. Encourage your family and friends to take the pledge not to drive while distracted.
Remember, not only is distracted driving a dangerous habit, texting while driving is illegal in Florida and most other states. This month, reflect on the truth that while driving is a privilege, it also comes with great responsibility.
Teen drivers are still learning the basics and getting comfortable with their new skills when they first take to the road. Add in a traffic mix including cars, motorcycles and large semi-trucks, and things can get more complicated. In fact, according to the IIHS, about 1 in 10 highway deaths occur in crashes involving a large truck. One of the most important lessons new drivers can learn is how to safely share the road with large vehicles.
Here are a few tips for teens:
- Consider size and speed. The larger and heavier the vehicle, the more time and space it needs to come to a complete stop. In fact, tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and could take over 450 feet to safely come to a complete rest. Keep this in mind when you’re changing lanes or merging in front of a large truck. Give those drivers the space to see you, and to stop or slow down. They can’t just slam on the brakes!
- What can be seen? Blind spots can contribute to collisions, and a semi-truck has much more significant blind spots than a small passenger vehicle. Always check blind spots before changing lanes, and always take care when you’re driving in a truck’s blind spots.
- Caution on turns. Following the same theme, when driving near larger vehicles and trucks, you must remember that they need more space to make turns. Have you ever been stopped behind a truck at a light and noticed a “wide right turns” sign on the bumper? These trucks need more space to safely maneuver around corners, so make sure to give them the time and distance to safely get around tight spots!
Florida teens can complete their Drug & Alcohol course and learner’s permit test with GDL Institute for even more tips and instruction on safe driving techniques. What other advice would you give to drivers about how to safely share the road?