A Teenagers and Parents Guide to Safe Driving

Teens often lack the skills and experience needed to be confident drivers, putting them at a higher risk for traffic crashes. The more new drivers practice under supervision, the better they will be able to handle various situations and challenges on the road. Before you even hit the road, it’s important to have knowledge of the vehicle. Adjust the safety belt so that it is free of tangles and fits securely across the chest and hips. Ensure that the mirrors provide the best view of what is occurring on all sides of the vehicle. Look at the dashboard to check the fuel gauge and any warning lights. Once you know where and how all of the controls work, you can begin driving.

It’s crucial to understand highway traffic signs and signals before entering the roadway. Shapes, symbols, and words can be found alongside roads and highways and are used to provide information at a glance. The color and shape of the signs should be easily recognized by drivers to warn them of upcoming stops, roadwork, crossroads, or other scenarios that may require them to slow down or stop. Some important sign shapes and colors to recognize include:

  • Red: Stop, prohibited, or yield
  • Black/White: Regulatory
  • Yellow: Warning
  • Green: Direction
  • Orange: Construction
  • Blue: Services for travelers
  • Triangle: Yield
  • Octagon: Stop
  • Vertical Rectangle: Regulatory
  • Diamond: Warning
  • Pentagon: School
  • Cross-buck or Round: Railroad

Plenty of practice is needed to handle a moving vehicle, preferably performed in an empty parking lot or other safe location before moving onto a roadway. Acceleration should be slow and smooth, and pressure should be applied to the pedal using only the ball of the foot, not the whole foot. Practice keeping the vehicle at a steady and appropriate speed, and periodically check the speedometer. The recommended hand position while driving is 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, as this position allows for more control of the steering wheel.

When backing up, always check for pedestrians, traffic, parked vehicles, and low stationary objects behind you. Don’t always rely on your mirrors to see around you. Turn your head to look out the rear window, keep your foot in light contact with the brake, and glance quickly to the sides and front to check traffic as you continue to back up. Never back up faster than a walking pace. Follow these safe driving tips to master driving and to prevent auto collisions:

  • When changing lanes, always put on the turn signal before moving over to give drivers around you plenty of warning.
  • Always slow down around intersections, look both ways, and check for pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
  • At a four-way stop, the vehicle that arrived first has the right-of-way.
  • Always yield to railroad crossings, school buses picking up or dropping off children, and blind pedestrians crossing the street or highway guided by a dog or while carrying a white cane.
  • When merging into traffic, the right-of-way belongs to the moving traffic.
  • Only pass other vehicles when it is absolutely safe to do, and always use extreme caution when passing on a two-lane highway.
  • Never linger alongside large buses or trucks, as these oversized vehicles have large blind spots.
  • Nighttime driving should be mastered only after daytime driving, and motorists should drive more slowly as visibility is reduced.

Many road hazards can be avoided by recognizing dangers early on and communicating with other drivers. While the path in front of the driver is most important, drivers should be aware of what is happening on all sides of the vehicle. It’s best to scan the highway 20 to 30 seconds ahead to determine if any actions need to be taken. In normal conditions, a driver should stay three to four seconds behind the vehicle in front of them. In the dark or in bad weather, the distance between cars should be four to six seconds. Follow these other tips to stay safe on the road:

  • Speed limit signs posted on the side of the road tell drivers the maximum speed they can drive by law.
  • Keep the vehicle in the center of the driving lane, never at the edges.
  • Periodically check the mirrors to see what is happening beside and behind the vehicle.
  • Use hand checks if you experience blind spots.
  • If the driver is ever uncomfortable while driving, they should slow down or ask someone else to drive.

Additional Resources

By Ted Burgess