Practice makes perfect, so make sure you spend lots of time in the passenger seat with your teen. Many states require a minimum number of practice hours, but even if your state doesn’t, you and your teen should practice as often as possible.
Remember – it’s not behavior that factors into so many teen crashes, it’s inexperience. Regardless of behavior, all teens are inexperienced and all teens are subject to the same risk.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute in April 2011 identified teen drivers' most common errors that lead to crashes. Three out of four serious teen driver crashes are due to inexperience – not scanning the roadway, following too closely, losing control, and more. The three most common errors, accounting for about half of these crashes, are:
- Lack of scanning the roadway
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Distraction by something inside or outside the vehicle
- Don’t practice with other people in the vehicle. It’s a distraction and can create stressful situations.
- Start practicing in low-risk settings and work up to more risky situations.
- Begin practicing in daylight, good weather and on remote roads or empty parking lots.
- Gradually move to dusk and nighttime driving, inclement weather and busier roads.
- Begin practicing basic skills (turning, parking and backing up) and move into more complex skills, such as changing lanes.
- Drive as often as possible, even if your teen has met the minimum number of hours required by your state. Remember – the more practice, the better.
- Set a good example. Your teen will model what you do, so be sure to drive correctly, safely and legally.
- Expect mistakes. The only way to learn is to make mistakes, so accept this and be positive and calm. Coach your teen on mistakes and praise correct driving.
- Give directions properly. Explain what your teen should do in advance, in a clear, calm voice.
- Stay focused. Remember that your teen is still learning and you are the responsible, experienced driver. Scan the roadway for hazards and be ready to react.