We know you worry about your teen driver… To help them along with their safety training, we’ve compiled a list of tips. Please go over them with your teen to help make your teen a better driver and reduce their chance of accidents.
- Always wear your seat belt – and make sure all passengers buckle up, too.
- Adjust your car’s headrest to a height behind your head – not your neck – to minimize whiplash in case you’re in an accident.
- Never try to fit more people in your car than available seat belts.
- Obey the speed limits. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excess speed is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
- Don’t run red lights.
- Use turn signals to indicate your intention to turn or to change lanes. Turn it on to give the cars behind you enough time to react before you take the action. Also, make sure the signals turns off after you’ve completed the action.
- When light turns green, make sure the intersection is clear before you go.
- Don’t drive like you own the road; drive like you own the car.
- Make sure your windshield is clean. At sunrise and sunset, light reflecting off your dirty windshield can momentarily blind you from seeing what’s going on.
- Don’t blast the radio. You might miss hearing a siren or a horn that could warn you of possible trouble, as well as noises from your engine that let you know something is wrong.
- Make sure your garage door is completely open before backing out of it.
- Drive into your garage straight, not on an angle.
- Make sure your car has gas in it. Don’t ride around with the gauge on empty – who knows where you might get stranded.
- Don’t drink and drive, and don’t ride with anyone who has been drinking. Call parents, friends, or a cab to take you home if you need a ride.
- Don’t take drugs or drive if you’ve taken any. Don’t ride with anyone who has been using drugs. Even some over-the-counter drugs can make you drowsy. Check label for warnings.
- Don’t drive with small children or even small teenage friends as passengers in a front seat that has a passenger-side air bag. They should be buckled up in the back seat. Recent transportation studies show that small children may be injured by the air bags even in low-impact collisions (It’s safer not to drive with friends and kids in the car when you’re learning to drive. They can be distracting.).
- Don’t drive while distracted, including talking on the car phone, putting on make-up, combing your hair, or eating while driving. People who talk on car phones while driving are four times more likely to have an accident. If you need to make a call, pull off the road to a safe spot and park.
- Don’t fiddle with the radio while you are driving. It’s better to wait until you can pull over and stop because even taking your focus off the road, even for a few seconds, can lead to an accident.
- Use good quality tires and make sure they are inflated to the right pressure (check your owner’s manual for what is right for your tires and car). Many recommend radial tires, and in some states, radials are ok to use in snow emergency conditions. Check your state to see what the requirements are for driving in snow.
- Maintain your car. Bald tires, a slipping transmission, or a hesitant engine could lead to accidents.
- Use headlights during daylight driving, especially on long stretches of desert highway and rural roads to make you more visible to oncoming drivers.
- Watch out for potholes, especially after bad weather.
- Be on the lookout for motorcycles, bikes, and pedestrians.
- When driving to a new place, get complete directions before you go. Figure out what exits you need to take beforehand so there's no surprises.
Driving Around School
- Get to school five to ten minutes early and leave five minutes late to avoid the mad dash into and out of the parking lots. Many accidents happen when people are in a rush.
- If your school lot has perpendicular spaces (not angle parking), park in a space you can pull straight out of instead of having to back out. Backing out in crowed lots is tricky.
- Watch for people getting on and off school buses – and don’t run into the school buses, either.
- Go slow.
- Don’t leave valuables like wallets, shoes, leather jackets or sports equipment in your cars where they can be seen. They invite break-ins.
- Always stop for school buses with flashing red lights. The flashing lights mean that students are either getting on or off the bus - and may be crossing the street. Their safety depends on cars obeying this law.
Driving Around Town
- Avoid making left hand turns across busy intersections that don’t have turn signals. It takes a while to learn how to gauge the oncoming traffic. Better to go down a block or two until you come to a light, or plan a route that doesn’t need this turn.
- Don’t make assumptions about what other drivers are going to do. The only thing you can assume about another driver with a turn signal on is that he has a turn signal on. He might not be turning at all and forgot to turn it off the last time he used it or has changed his mind.
- When there’s an obstruction in your lane, wait for oncoming traffic to clear before you pull around. Just because someone’s blocking your lane doesn’t mean you have the right of way in the next or oncoming lane.
- Watch out for aggressive drivers and try to stay out of their way. They are the cause of a lot of accidents – especially on the beltways.
- To avoid fender benders, watch out for anything that is connected to the U.S. Mail or city services – they make frequent stops.
- Don’t do anything that will cause another car’s driver to slam on the brakes such as pulling out in front of him or swerving into his lane.
Driving in the Country
- Watch out for deer and other animals, large and small. If you see a deer approaching, slow down and flash your lights repeatedly. Often, the deer will run away.
- Also, if you see one deer, watch out for others close by – they often travel in pairs or groups.
- Watch out for pigs, chickens, cows, possums, and skunks, too.
- When driving in the desert, watch out for animals like burros, wild horses, mule deer and coyotes.
Driving in Bad Weather
- Turn your headlights on anytime you need to turn your windshield wipers on – in rain, fog, sleet, freezing rain, and snow, as well as during twilight and dusk. It will help your visibility – and also help other drivers see you.
- During winter, keep an ice scraper with a brush in your car in case it snows or sleets. Also check that you have wiper fluid/de-icer in your car. If it gets messy while you are out, these will come in handy.
- Double the space you normally leave between you and the next car. You’ll need more space to stop on slick roads.
- Brake gently.
- Make sure your exhaust tail pipe is clear if you’ve had to dig your car out of snow or ice or if you’ve backed into a snow bank. If your tail pipe is blocked you could get sick or die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- When driving on slippery surfaces like ice or snow use gentle pressure on the accelerator pedal when starting. If your wheels start to spin, let up on the accelerator until traction returns.
- Check that windshield wipers and washers work - you may need it in snow and sleet.
- Keep windows and windshield clear. Make sure wipers are working.
- Leave a window open a little bit to keep windshield from fogging up and to give you fresh air.
- Watch for danger spots ahead. You've probably heard that bridges and overpasses may freeze before the roads do.
- When starting out in bad weather, test your brakes to see how far it takes you to stop. This tip was sent in by someone who didn’t do this and ended up wrecking her car. She also called her dad on his car phone to tell him about the accident–and he was so upset, he wrecked his car, too. So her second tip is not to tell your parents that you’ve wrecked the car while they are driving.
- If you are stuck in ice or snow, try putting your floor mats under the edge of the tires to give them traction.
- Braking in bad weather can be tricky. When braking on wet roads:
- If you have ABS (anti-lock) brakes, do not pump brakes.
- If you skid with non ABS brakes and your wheels lock up, let up on the brakes to unlock the wheels, and then brake gently.
- Listen to radio traffic reports and adjust your travel plans accordingly.
To Pass or Not to Pass
- When there is a solid yellow line on your side.
- When you’re uncertain there is enough time or space.
- When you can’t see around a curve or over a hill.
- When behind multiple cars and passing one car doesn't really make any difference.
- On two lane roads, don’t pass tractors or trucks or other vehicles you can’t see around.
- In hazardous weather conditions.
- When another car is coming toward you in the opposite lane.
- When a car is passing you.
- When there is construction or road work.
- When the car in front of you is going the maximum speed limit.
- When on narrow roads, on bridges, or in tunnels.
- When you are unfamiliar with the car you are driving and its capabilities.
- Don’t play leap frog by passing a friend that just passed you.
Passing with Caution
- Only pass if there’s a dotted line on your side.
- Check that the passing lane is clear.
- Make sure you have plenty of space to pass safely.
- Signal before you pass.
- Pass at least ten miles per hour faster than the car you’re passing while not exceeding the speed limit.
- Make sure you have cleared the passed car with enough space before pulling back into your lane.
Major Factors in Accidents
- Alcohol and drugs
- Ignoring right-of-way
- Improper passing and driving to the left of center
- Reckless driving
Danger Signs for Drowsy Driving
Drowsiness can sneak up on you when you’re driving. For teenagers, driving late at night, between 11pm and 2am is particularly dangerous for falling asleep at the wheel. Here are some signs to watch for – and do something about before you run into a tree or another car.
- Yawning a lot
- Having trouble keeping eyes open
- Not being able to concentrate
- Not remembering the last few minutes or seconds
- Jerking of your head or body from the brink of falling asleep
- Car wanders from the road or into another lane
What to do if you’re drowsy when driving:
- Slow Down
- Pull off the road into a safe parking space.
- Call home if you can.
- Talk to a passenger if you have one.
- Turn radio to a lively station – try singing.
- Roll down window and get some fresh air for a few minutes, or turn vent on full blast.
- Make a pit stop, use the bathroom and get a Coke or coffee to drink.
Buying an Used Car
- Some older used cars have airbags. Many Chrysler cars 1990 (also a few from 1989) and later have airbags. Other makes and models have airbags in 1993, 94, or 95 models.
- The Consumer Guide Used Car Rating Guide has listing with good and bad points of used cars.
- Check the horn, lights, heat, air-conditioning, brakes, seat belts, steering, and seats out before you buy. Also look for evidence that indicates the car was in a major accident.
- Check with the previous owner for the car’s accident and maintenance record. You may find the owner’s name written on the owner’s manual in glove compartment. Also for a fee, you may be able to get some information from your state department of motor vehicles if you have the car identification number which can tell you if the car has been in previous accidents.
- Have a mechanic you trust go over the car and alert you to any potential problems.
- Check the car for evidence of tampering like any marks on the odometer or numbers that don’t line up. Also see if the odometer miles are more than mileage entered on oil stickers, inspection stickers, or tire warranty cards.
- Look at the tires. If the odometer reads less than 25,000 miles, the car should have the original tires – and they should all be the same brand and probably radials.
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