Keep Your Teen Driver Safe
Some of the most catastrophic car accidents happen with new drivers behind the wheel—be it because of distracting passengers, using a phone, or tampering with the radio or GPS inside the vehicle, there are more than a few common scenarios that end up precarious and sometimes fatal for teen drivers. With the new school year rolling around, your teenager may be back out on the road soon to commute to school and/or work. Reminding them of some of the dangers driving poses can only help them out in the world—here are ten talking points to get that conversation rolling.
- Buckle up!
The “Click It or Ticket” campaign is no joke—and not buckling up can result in worse than a ticket. Your seatbelt can be your lifesaver if you’re ever in an accident and you should wear it every time you’re in a car as a driver or as a passenger. If you’re borrowing a friend or family member’s vehicle, make sure to adjust your seat (even if it takes a little extra time) to ensure you can easily reach the pedals of the car, the steering wheel, and the gearshift, along with allowing your seatbelt to rest comfortably and unrestricted across your chest and lap. If you have passengers, ensure they have their seatbelt on before you start driving—as the driver, you’re responsible for your passengers and you will be held accountable for their wellbeing while they’re in the vehicle with you.
- Don’t drive distracted.
Texting. Eating and drinking. Talking on the phone. Looking at Facebook. All things you shouldn’t do while operating a vehicle. Not only are there plenty of fines and penalties associated with distracted driving, but the potential damage that could be inflicted upon you, your passengers, other drivers, or your vehicle makes sending that message completely not worth the risk. If you need to use your phone to make an emergency call or set up a route on your GPS or Maps app, pull over or park in a nearby (populated and well-lit if it’s nighttime) lot and get done what you need to. If your vehicle is equipped with the ability to do hands-free calling, your hands are at least free to remain on the wheel, but your mind is still distracted, so it’s still worth being mindful of that even if you don’t have to pull over to make a call.
- Mind the speed limit.
It’s tough to maintain the speed limit constantly on the road—minds wander, you pay more attention to how fast everyone around you is going rather than the legal speed limit, and so on. Going even five over the speed limit can be exponentially more dangerous for less experienced drivers, particularly when faced with bad traffic, less than perfect weather conditions, and reckless drivers. Being told off by your teacher or boss for being a little late isn’t nearly as dangerous as speeding and potentially finding yourself in a serious accident. Don’t speed and only pass other cars when you’re certain you’re in the clear to do so.
- Lay down some ground rules.
State laws are good incentive to drive safely, but sometimes having a conversation about house rules from your parents brings the point home. It’s best to have an idea of what will get you in trouble with your parents before getting on the road, so asking questions about when and where you’re permitted to drive, in what weather, which vehicle should be your primary vehicle, and who’s allowed to ride with you can keep you from getting in trouble later on. More than that, since your parents have your best interests at heart, listening to their advice (which comes with years of driving experience) could keep you safer in the long run. Combine parental guidance with knowledge of driving laws and your own common sense and you’ve got a pretty great foundation to work with.
- When school buses are stopped with flashing lights, do not pass them.
Flashing lights on a school bus mean that children are either boarding or getting off the bus and may be crossing the street. The 10-foot area all around a school bus is one of the most dangerous areas for kids because it’s hard for both the bus driver and other drivers around the bus to see them and they not only have trouble seeing, but they also typically young children don’t have the forethought to check the street before running out to head home. Their safety depends entirely on cars obeying the law and stopping whenever a school bus is stopped on its route.
- Don’t park in fire lanes around the school.
Parking in fire lanes anywhere will likely get you a ticket, but it’s also very possible that your parking job will block an area a firetruck may need to access in the event of an emergency. This is just a good rule of thumb overall as a driver—parking in a fire lane is careless and selfish and doing so could result in you getting a ticket or hindering emergency personnel from responding to people who need their help.
- Beat the crowd if you can.
Getting to school five to ten minutes early doesn’t sound fun, but it’s helpful when it comes to parking. Beating the morning rush helps you get a good spot without dealing with your more reckless classmates and dashing out quickly after the final bell or waiting out the after-school parking lot rush can help you avoid an accident. Lots of accidents happen when people are rushing around and distracted, and a bunch of people sequestered in one spot like a parking lot all trying to leave is a recipe for disaster.
- Be wary of weather and seasonal changes.
We’re in August right now, but the transition to fall will creep up on us before we know it. The leaves changing with the season are gorgeous, but if you’ve ever stepped wrong on a patch of fallen leaves, you know they can be slick. Loose terrain is never terribly safe to drive on (i.e. leaves, gravel, mud, etc.) so you need to be more mindful of your vehicle’s stability in these environments. The same rule goes for rain. Be careful on the road and allow yourself a larger distance between yourself and the car in front of you for stopping when you’re driving on potentially slick wet roads.
- Find “pull-through” spots.
If your school or workplace has perpendicular parking spaces (not angled), park in a spot where you can pull straight out instead of going through the hassle of reversing out into traffic. Backing out in crowded lots is tricky and a one-way trip to an accident if you, another driver, or both of you aren’t paying attention. Finding a place where you can pull on through to an outward-facing spot you can just pull out of later on is the easiest parking job you’ll do all day.
- Get enough sleep.
Sleep is key to almost everything. Staying up super late makes getting up early tough and it makes your driving dangerous. 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal for a teenage brain and doing your best to achieve that will help you function better at school, work, in your free time, and behind the wheel. Try to unplug from your devices at least an hour before you try to sleep so you can relax and fall asleep faster. Driving tired is just as dangerous as driving intoxicated. The bottom line is if you’re too tired to drive, don’t—take a break, rest for a few minutes, have something to drink (caffeinated if you think it’ll help), or in the best case scenario have a parent drive you where you need to go or come pick you up.
Who can be sued after a car accident with a teen driver?
There is no monetary limit to what a minor can be sued for in the event of an accident—not only that, but a parent or guardian can also be sued for even more money in conjunction with the accident. If your teen has been in an accident, contact Boughter Sinak, LLC today in order to protect yourself and your child and get you the compensation you deserve.