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A teen texts on his phone while driving his convertible.

Teens and 5 Big Driving Mistakes They Make

October 03, 2016

Obtaining a driver’s license or learners permit for teens is the ultimate rite of passage, but did you know that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. In the U.S., over eight people are killed and 1,161 are injured daily in crashes involving distracted driving, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention reports. The Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. This includes:

• Texting
• Using a cell phone or smartphone
• Eating and drinking
• Talking to passengers
• Grooming
• Watching a video
• Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia have laws banning texting and driving. Yet, these things continue to happen, and the issue isn’t just talking and texting anymore. Teen drivers are on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Maps, Spotify, YouTube, and now Pokémon Go.

Here’s our top tips for teen drivers:

Teen Driving Mistake #1 – Being in a Rush

Tip - Leave Early. With rush hours, lunch breaks, and more, traffic business can be stressful for any driver, especially teens. To counter this, build extra time into your commute for congestion, traffic, and any other delays. This way, teens won’t be tempted to speed or disobey traffic laws in an attempt to “catch-up” after being delayed. If possible, reroute your commute to avoid neighborhoods and school zones.

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Teen Driving Mistake #2 – Ignoring Traffic Signs

Tip - Slow Down. Neighborhood and school zone speed limits are reduced for a reason. Be aware of your surroundings and the times that are most likely to be active with pedestrians.

Tip - Stop Means Stop. It can be easy to roll through a stop sign, especially if you're in a hurry in a school zone or neighborhood where families may be outside. Make sure you come to a complete stop, check carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

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Teen Driving Mistake #3 – Not Looking in Every Direction

Tip - Reverse Responsibly. Backing up or going in reverse can be challenging and intimidating for anyone, especially for teens. Even with rear-view cameras and sensors, every vehicle has blind spots. Make sure your teen checks for children on the sidewalk, driveway, and around the vehicle before slowly backing up.

Tip - Watch for Bicycles. Vehicles and bicycles do not mix well, especially children on bikes who are often inexperienced, unsteady, and unpredictable. Make sure you slow down and allow three feet or more of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicyclist.

Teen Driving Mistake #4 – Driving the Same in Good Weather as in Bad Weather

Poor Driving Conditions

Poor driving conditions are an important factor in teen driving. Experts suggest allowing your teen to drive under your supervision in rain, snow, and heavy traffic conditions, allowing them to see how the vehicle will react. Bad weather usually means poor driving conditions, and these elements can challenge even the most experienced drivers.

Fog. Make sure your teen uses his/her low-beam lights in fog. Low beams help increase the visibility without causing a reflection off the fog. It might be necessary to use the windshield defrosters and open the windows.

Snow and Sleet. If your teen driver has no other choice but to drive in winter weather, advise them to keep a clear windshield and to drive slowly. It’s important to avoid bridges and overpasses because they can become icy and cause a vehicle to skid.

Floods. Six inches of water is enough to cause a vehicle to float off the ground, so avoiding flood waters is the only way to stay safe. If your teen driver ends up in flood waters, tell them to abandon the vehicle and immediately seek higher ground.

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Teen Driving Mistake #5 – Not Asking For Parental Guidance

Tips for Parents

Before tossing the keys to your newly-licensed driver, it’s important to continue to stress the importance of safety. Too often parents aren’t actively involved in their teenager’s driving; they think that after passing the driver’s test, that’s it. Unfortunately, putting a very inexperienced driver on the road is risky.

Before sending your teenage on the road, allow them to get familiar with the family car. Gradually introduce them to driving scenarios – braking, making turns, intersections, driveways, navigating a large parking lot, and more. 

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Remain Calm. When working with your teen on their driving skills, remember to remain calm. Raising your voice can cause your child to become tense and therefore unable to focus on the lesson.

Model the Behavior. Teens tend to follow the crowd, so it’s important parents model these aforementioned behaviors. What you do, your teen is going to do. As easy as it is to pull out your phone, mute it, and put it in the glovebox until you arrive safely at your destination. That way no one is distracted by it going off.

Changing Technology. Today, automakers are implementing technology letting parents keep tabs on teen drivers and their behavior behind the wheel. Examples include: safety features like stability control and lane-departure warnings cannot be disabled; if the front seat belts aren’t being used, the audio won’t work. A report card is then available showing how the teen drove for parents to help coach the teen on safe driving habits.

With everything happening on today’s roadways, it can be stressful to hand over the keys to your teen driver. While we can’t take 100% of the risk away, we can help give you peace of mind. Connect with a Farm Bureau agent to learn more about the Farm Bureau Young Driver Safety Program.