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Typically, we think of teaching teens to drive in terms of what they should and shouldn’t do to stay safe behind the wheel.
Obey the speed limit. Come to complete stops. Always use your turn signal.
These basics are incredibly important for teens to learn, but their main purpose is to help drivers avoid putting themselves into danger. What we can’t forget is that teen drivers also need to be on the lookout for how other drivers might put them at risk.
Most of us like to think we have excellent driving skills and that even when we make mistakes or dangerous decisions, it’s okay because we’re still in control of the situation. This way of thinking tragically leads to many crashes, injuries and deaths each year, often involving other drivers who were doing everything right.
It’s a risk your teen has to understand and prepare for, so that when a texting driver or an impaired driver makes that poor choice and poses a risk, your teen will be able to recognize it and take action to stay safe. And it starts with expecting these dangerous conditions each time they get behind the wheel.
When you practice driving, point out these types of risks and ask your teen how they’d react if:
This teaches your teen to give more thought to the other road users around them, instead of assuming everyone will drive safely all the time. This way, when a potential risk comes up – like an oblivious driver merging into your teen’s lane – your teen will be more likely to anticipate that action and avoid an imminent crash.
This might not exactly be fair, having to drive safely ourselves while also accounting for the bad driving of others, but it’s what is necessary to stay safe. Your teen might not have to use these skills to avoid a crash every day, but when they learn to pay attention to other drivers, they’ll be ready when the time comes.
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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