Many parents believe teens crash because of their behavior behind the wheel. In actuality, inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes. A teen driver’s crash risk is highest during the first six months and 1,000 miles of driving independently. You can help combat these risks by following the state’s Graduated Driver Licensing laws and continuing to ride with your teen even after the required supervision period ends.
GDL is proven to work. States with strong GDL laws have seen as much as a 40 percent reduction in crashes involving teen drivers. GDL works because it maximizes experience behind the wheel while minimizing common risks. GDL laws include a required amount of supervised driving hours. You can use this requirement as a benchmark and go beyond it.
Riding often with your teen driver can help him or her become more comfortable behind the wheel. Slowly introduce more complex driving situations. Here are some situations that require frequent practice:
- Driving in the rain – All drivers should exercise caution while driving on wet roads. Teens need to understand the importance of slowing down when it is raining and need to remember that it could take more time to brake when roads are slick.
- Driving at nighttime – Driving after dark presents its own challenges. Visibility is poor and there is a higher likelihood of impaired or fatigued drivers. Also, late outings often are recreational and drivers could easily become distracted or take risks.
- Gap awareness – Making turns is a difficult skill to master, especially turning left. Teen drivers need plenty of practice gauging how long it takes to safely make a turn. It is critical to practice this often. Teens also need to learn how to gauge a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of them.
Remember that the things with which you struggle are not necessarily the things teens need to know most when they are learning. For example, it is more important for teens to understand how long it takes to make a left turn than it is to learn how to parallel park a vehicle. Riding with your teen will help you notice which things he or she struggles with most so you can practice them repeatedly.
Once your teen has gained plenty of experience, set and enforce rules at home. Setting and enforcing rules consistently – no passengers, cell phone use or nighttime driving – will help keep your teen as safe as possible when they are ready to navigate the roads alone.