The day a teenager obtains a driver’s license is both anticipated and dreaded by parents. You may look forward to spending less time as a chauffeur but know that you will worry about their safety every time they are behind the wheel. You can also look forward to higher insurance premiums. Unfortunately, young drivers tend to have more accidents, also leading to higher insurance payments and many extra grey hairs. Learn about some of the most common mistakes of teenage drivers so you can better prepare your children when they venture out into traffic:
Distractions. Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents for drivers of any age, but it is especially dangerous for new drivers. First on the list of dangerous distractions is cell phone use. Teens should be instructed to turn their cell phones off completely while driving; even with a hands-free device, the simple motion of pressing a button to answer a call can take a driver’s attention off the road. For a driver already unfamiliar with their surroundings, a small lapse in attention can be disastrous.
Another common distraction is having passengers in the car. New drivers need to keep their attention on the road and cannot afford being distracted by multiple conversations. Many states limit the number of passengers allowed in a new driver’s vehicle. Even in states where no such limits are in place, parents should still consider placing their own limits on the number of passengers their children can drive.
Overconfidence. Teenagers tend to believe that they are indestructible. Once they complete driver training and pass the test for a driver’s license, they may believe they have all of the knowledge and skills they need to handle any situation that may arise. This, of course, is not the case. Many driving skills can only be learned with practice.
Learning how to handle common situations such as merging onto a busy highway, being cut off by another vehicle suddenly changing lanes, or braking on a wet or icy road, cannot be taught – they must be experienced. Teen drivers may believe they have the skills to handle these situations, only to find that they are not as prepared as they thought. The only way to help prevent accidents caused by overconfident and undertrained drivers is to provide new drivers as much supervised driving time as possible, even after they have earned a license.
Nerves. Your teenager may not admit it, but he or she may be nervous, or even terrified, of driving alone. Lack of confidence can be just as dangerous as overconfidence. While caution is always positive, too much of a good thing may actually lead to accidents. For example, hesitating or stopping while pulling into an intersection or merging traffic can lead to a rear-end collision. Time behind the wheel is the best solution for a nervous driver. If your teen is excessively timid, give him or her more supervised driving time before driving alone.
Recognizing the need to give new drivers as much experience as possible, all 50 states have some sort of Graduated Driver Licensing program. In New York, the first step is a learner’s permit, which allows a teen to drive under the supervision of a licensed driver over the age of 21 in the front seat. Between the hours of 9pm and 5am, the supervisor must be a parent, guardian, or licensed driving instructor. The next step is a junior driver’s license, which allows the driver to drive unsupervised between the hours of 5am and 9pm. The last step is an unrestricted license.
Even with the best instruction and supervision, some accidents cannot be avoided. If you or your teen has been injured in an accident, call The O’Brien Firm at 716-907-7777 for a free consultation, or visit our website at http://www.theobrienfirm.com/ for more information.