For many teens, getting that coveted driver’s license is a sign of increasing independence. But along with that independence comes responsibility, a message parents must continue to stress to their new young drivers to keep them — and the rest of us — safe on the road.
What are the main points of driving that teens need to remember? Other than wearing a seat belt, maintaining the speed limit, not talking on cellphones or texting, and keeping your eyes (and mind) on the road, here are some driving tips for teens newly behind the wheel:
• Parallel parking: One driving school in suburban Washington, D.C., teaches the "S" Method of what many teens — and adults — consider the most difficult way to park. The "S" signifies the shape your car makes as you park. You can learn the steps here.
• Changing lanes and passing: Tailgating (following too closely behind the car in front of you) is dangerous. So when is it safe to pass a car going in front of you? Know the guidelines for going around.
• Signal use: Those turn signals are there for a reason — to alert drivers behind you of your intentions. Use the signals whenever you are turning, even when you are leaving a parallel parking space. The horn, too, is a crucial tool in driving, and not just to lean on when the driver in front of you spaces out at a green light.
• Keep your distance: Though in some situations, it is safe to pass a car in front of you, in general, the rules in place for safe following distance can help you avoid rear-end collisions. Follow the "three-second rule," in which you pick a stationary object in front of you, like a tree. Begin counting when the car in front of you passes the object; if you pass the object before you count to three, you are too close.
• Teens and peer pressure: When you are the driver, you are in charge, and your friends must abide by the rules. However, “…the combination of driving and peer pressure can put you in real danger,” states the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) teen driving guide, "Becoming the New Driver in Your Family." "There are times when your friends are going to encourage you to take unnecessary risks [such as not putting on a seat belt or speeding]. It’s hard to say no."
• Parents as partners: This is why your parents, those loving adults who handed over the car keys, are crucial to your development as a driver. Listen to them. Do as they say. After all, they have been driving since way before you were born. In fact, AAA makes it easy for teens to ignore peer pressure, by creating a parent-teen driving agreement. This document includes driving privileges, rules and consequences for disobeying them. Both parent and teen sign.
As exciting as it is to have a driver’s license, it is a risk. Keeping in mind these teen driving tips will keep you, your passengers, and the drivers and passengers around you, as safe as possible.