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New teen drivers have a lot to face on the road, which is why we often try to make things simple: always stop for emergency vehicles, never go through railroad crossings, etc. Pedestrians, however, are a tricky topic but one well worth talking through with your teen.
Share the road
Recent years have seen an increase in pedestrian fatalities, with more than 7,000 being killed in 2017, according to Injury Facts. While pedestrians absolutely have a responsibility to pay attention to traffic, drivers can’t dismiss their own role in keeping these road users safe.
A vehicle, after all, has the potential to cause much more damage on the road than a person does. Think of this like our previous lesson on 'right of way': if a pedestrian is crossing the street, it doesn’t matter whether or not he or she is supposed to be there. In that moment, all that matters is whether the drivers on the road see the pedestrian and are prepared to stop.
So how can your teen prepare for this when most pedestrian fatalities occur outside of intersections and at night, when drivers aren’t expecting them and could have trouble seeing them?
Practice these habits
The best way to drive around pedestrians is to expect them everywhere. Whether it’s a parking lot, construction zone or major road, teach your teen to expect and look for pedestrians, even if they’re rare. If the streets are empty or the crosswalks are spaced far apart, people may be tempted to cross in the middle of the street. And while this might be wrong – and even illegal – the first priority in this situation is to prevent injuries and fatalities.
You can start simply, by reminding your teen to check the mirrors when backing out of a parking spot, then move on to having them do the same when changing lanes or making turns. In poor weather and at night, your teen should know to drive slower and constantly scan the road for pedestrians.
Staying alert like this might seem like a lot of extra effort, but it can pay off in other ways. Getting into the habit of checking your mirrors for pedestrians can help you spot other drivers in your blind spots and looking twice before going through intersections or around corners can help you avoid crashes. Your town may not be packed with cyclists and busy sidewalks, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a skill worth learning, especially for new drivers.
The last piece of this puzzle is to remind your teen to be patient with pedestrians. It may be frustrating to wait for a crosswalk to clear before turning, but that doesn’t give drivers the right to speed through them and put people at risk. Your teen spent years as a pedestrian before getting the chance to drive, so make sure he or she doesn’t forget what it’s like to share the road with vehicles.
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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