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Teen drivers face enormous risks behind the wheel, from inexperience to distraction, but one risk they may be particularly unprepared for is impairment.
While your teen needs to know how to safely operate a vehicle, he or she also must learn how to recognize when it is not safe for them to drive. You can help by educating your teen on the different forms of impairment so they are prepared to make the right decision.
Know the Forms of Impairment
When we think of impairment, alcohol is the main risk that comes to mind. And all 50 states have zero tolerance laws for underage drinking and driving for a reason: alcohol can severely impair your ability to drive safely. However, your teen must also be familiar with other forms of impairment:
Recognize the Hazards
Unfortunately, the dangers of impairment can come from more than just consuming substances or missing out on sleep. At some point, your teen is likely to share the road with impaired drivers and part of being a safe, defensive driver is being on the lookout for these hazards and knowing how to react.
Teach your teen to watch for swerving and other signs of a potentially impaired driver and make sure they know to never antagonize or act aggressively toward such a driver. Your teen should know that slowing down and pulling over to get away from a dangerous road user is always an option. It might even be the safest choice to get off the road and notify the police. Teach your teen how to identify safe areas to pull off the road in such a situation so they know what to do.
Make the Right Choice
The safest strategy for any driver – especially teens – is to avoid any substance or behavior that leads to impaired driving and to never ride with a driver they believe to be impaired. This may not always be easy – many impaired drivers believe they are completely safe to drive – but it is a necessary lesson for your teen to learn. Once your teen becomes familiar with these forms of impairment, make it clear that you are always available to give them a ride if they feel they cannot drive safely. Your teen’s safety is the top priority, so talk about these risks often to help protect them on the roads.
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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