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Safe driving is all about communication. Without actually speaking, you have to understand what other drivers are doing – or are about to do – and they must know the same about you. This back-and-forth is crucial to preventing collisions and injuries, but it’s harder than you might think, especially for new drivers.
Teen drivers, after all, have plenty to focus on already. Remember, everything on the road is new for them and their inexperience means they may not have the skills to communicate properly yet.
Fortunately, brake lights exist to help us communicate. Think about it: brake lights aren’t necessary for your brakes to work, they are only there to let other drivers know that your vehicle is slowing down and that they should do the same. This is equally true for turn signals; their sole purpose is to help you communicate with other drivers. The catch is that we have to use them properly to get the safety benefits.
Are you prepared to help your teen use these tools to their full potential?
Maybe your teen has a bad habit of hard braking at the last minute. Your teen might argue that he or she is still able to come to a full stop in time, so there’s no problem, but this ignores all of the other drivers behind your teen. We all use brake lights to know whether traffic is slowing or continuing ahead of us, and sudden stops make it much harder for other drivers to react.
On your next practice drive, ask your teen to imagine driving without brake lights. How would that change the way we drive? Sure, we’d still have traffic lights and stop signs, but they can only tell us what traffic should be doing, not what it’s actually doing. You might plan to slow down for a changing traffic light, for example, but without brake lights, the driver behind you might assume you’re going to try and catch the light, and he or she might want to do the same.
While we hope that all drivers are scanning the road and looking carefully at other vehicles, sometimes we make dangerous assumptions behind the wheel. Brake lights, however, make the situation much clearer. The driver behind might still be upset that you didn’t try to make the light, but a little bit of road rage is much better than a rear-end collision.
Eventually, your teen will learn to use brake lights to judge stopping and following distances, and you can explain how other drivers count on your teen’s lights in the same way. This will help your teen become a much better communicator on the road, all without saying a word.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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