Hit the Brakes: What Teen Drivers Should Know About Sudden Stops

Help turn what could be a stressful situation for your teen into something they’re fully prepared to handle.

February 01, 2019

Picture your teen driving: the conditions are fine, their attention is on the road, but suddenly there’s a hazard.

It could be a deer, a pedestrian or maybe another vehicle; whatever it is, it’s blocking the road and your teen needs to stop, now. Can they?

Hard braking is one of those driving experiences we all dread yet need to be prepared for. Plenty of safe drivers find themselves having to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision; whether or not your teen is ready for this may determine the outcome. Here’s what you can do to help:

Practice, practice, practice

As we always say, the key to becoming a better, safer driver is practice and the same goes for this lesson. Hard braking, especially in an emergency, can be frightening, but letting your teen experience it in a more controlled situation can help them brace for it and be more prepared when it happens in real life.

We recommend finding an empty parking lot or similar area clear of vehicles, light posts and even parking curbs so your teen has plenty of room. Then allow them to get the vehicle up to a higher – but still safe – speed and then brake hard. You can demonstrate first, if you’d like, but give your teen the opportunity to be behind the wheel and feel how the vehicle reacts when they suddenly hit hard on the brakes.

You might consider using cones or even spare cardboard boxes as stand-in hazards for your teen. This can teach them how much space they actually need in order to come to a full stop at different speeds and hopefully serve as a reminder for them to always leave plenty of following distance between vehicles.

Understand ABS

Most vehicles today are equipped with a safety feature designed to assist with braking, called an anti-lock braking system. ABS helps you steer in emergencies by restoring traction to your tires. Before ABS, your brakes would lock up and you’d have to repeatedly pump them to try and keep your tires from skidding. ABS brakes handle this for you, giving you a better chance of avoiding hazards on the road.

Check the vehicle manual with your teen to be sure this feature is available, then talk your teen through how they work so they know what to expect. The more you know about this feature, the better you can educate your teen.

Safety first

Working this topic into your practice routine can help turn what could be a stressful situation for your teen into something they’re fully prepared to handle. Just be sure the practice environment is safe; you don’t want your teen to give this a go on the highway or near other drivers.

To learn even more about hard braking, take a look at our full lesson (including how to steer when you’re braking hard) and don’t forget to sign up for our Pointers for Parents so you’ll get lessons just like this emailed to you each week.

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