I’ve been driving for 40 years which sounds a lot longer than it actually feels. I’ve seen a lot of interesting driving scenarios during that time; people making turns from the wrong lane, cars driving the wrong way on a one way street, people moving across 4 lanes of traffic to make an exit, others who stopped on an entrance ramp, deer crossing a highway, people drifting into my lane, and much more. It continues to amaze me how fast a driving situation can change and how equally fast I’ve had to respond to what’s happening around me.
Teens who are learning how to drive, don’t have the experience to know what to do in these situations. A study, conducted by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, found that 67% of teen drivers, didn’t know what to do in complex driving scenarios. This made me think about the times my sons were learning to drive and what I would do different given this statistic. It’s impossible to expose them to every possible driving scenario, but I would want to expose them to these 5 scenarios.
Left Turns: Left turns can be hard enough for adults let alone teen drivers. It takes practice to judge how fast an oncoming car is approaching an intersection to safely make the turn. Have them practice making them as often as possible where you can walk them through judging speed, distance, as well as what to do when the light turns red and they are in the intersection. Remind them that oncoming traffic may still have a green signal before they turn in front of someone.
Dead Traffic Signal: If you live in Dallas, think back to the storm that came through the area a few weeks ago. Power was out for homes, businesses, and many traffic signals. When a signal is not working, treat it as a stop sign, even when it appears safe to go through it. It’s best to stop and confirm it’s safe to proceed before continuing through the intersection.
Rail Road Crossing: It’s always tempting to beat the train when the warning lights flash, the bell sounds, and the cross arm starts to drop. Doing so can be deadly though. The average freight train is between 1 and 2 miles long. If it’s traveling at 50 miles per hour, it can up to 2 miles to stop once the emergency brake is applied. If a driver misjudges, the train wins every time.
Highway Driving: There are several things a teen can driver can learn when you have them drive for an hour or two on a trip. The lessons include handling a car or truck at highway speeds, decision making when coming up behind someone, safely passing a car going the same direction, moderating speeds, as well as, entering and exiting the freeway. Driving on an interstate highway with 4 or more lanes is very different than driving on a 2 lane highway. Practice with them on both types of highways.
Work through how to stay alert by looking down to the speedometer, and rotating glances to the side and rearview mirrors. Remind them to stop and get out of the car every 2 hours to avoid fatigue and dozing off at the wheel.
Rush Hour Driving: Take your teen driver out during rush hour traffic on a regular basis. It’s very different from normal highway driving because of the start and stop and some of the crazy things other drivers do changing lanes. If they can manage rush hour traffic in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, or San Antonio, with you in the car, they will do much better when they’re driving alone.
Parents, please remember they are practicing which means learning something new. They will make mistakes, but it’s better to expose them to these driving scenarios with you along than when they are on their own.
What other scenarios do you think a teen driver needs to be exposed to with you or their parent in the car? Share your suggestions and experiences with us on our Google + or Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!