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It’s easy to make assumptions behind the wheel.
When the vehicles ahead don’t move at a green light, we assume the drivers are distracted. When someone has been pulled over for a traffic stop, we assume his or her day is going much worse than ours.
Sometimes, assumptions can be helpful, like when you assume the people ahead of you might slam on their brakes so you leave extra room between your vehicle and theirs. This small change in following distance could increase your response time and actually save your life. Unfortunately, not every assumption is so positive.
Picture your teen turning left at an intersection. There are no pedestrians around and the light is green, but there’s no green arrow, so your teen has to wait for the road to clear. It takes a while and your teen gets antsy. Eventually, the traffic is gone and the light is about to turn red again. Your teen hurries through the intersection to make it, suddenly seeing that a pedestrian was trying to cross the street at the last minute, too.
Sounds bad, right? Now imagine the same scenario at night. Or, picture this happening while your teen – or the pedestrian – is looking down at a phone. Plenty of factors could make this situation worse, but it all starts with the assumption that the road ahead is empty.
This is a major assumption drivers make and it can lead to serious risks on the road. Whether we’re turning, merging or backing up, we have a bad habit of checking once and then assuming things will stay that way. But if you’ve ever heard someone describe a crash scene and how a person or vehicle, “came out of nowhere,” then you can understand the importance watching the road.
This is an easy lesson to practice with your teen but it’s one that must become instinctual. So when you’re practicing, encourage your teen to always keep an eye on the area he or she plans to go. Backing out of a parking spot? Your teen should be looking over his or her should for approaching vehicles and pedestrians. Changing lanes? Your teen should check the vehicle’s blind spots AND confirm that there are no other vehicles coming up soon. Even at quiet intersections, your teen cannot assume that the roads will remain empty. Checking once is crucial, sure, but you always have to confirm – one last time – that the coast is clear.
As your teen gets more experience behind the wheel, reinforce this message in every driving situation. And remember: you can make assumptions for safety, but never for convenience.
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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