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To observe National Teen Driver Safety Week 2019, we wanted to get a sense of what teen drivers today are dealing with on the road. Are they excited about driving? Are they nervous? How confident are they in their skills and how concerned are they about getting into a crash?
We wanted honest answers straight from the source, so we surveyed dozens of teens about their strengths and weaknesses on the road, what makes them anxious behind the wheel, and what parents could do to help make them better drivers. Here is what we found.
Teen drivers have strong opinions
First, we asked how new drivers think they compare to their parents and yes, we got a lot of answers claiming they are far superior. Parents and caregivers might shrug these answers off as overconfidence, but there’s a lesson to be learned here: most of the teens who said they drove better than their parents claimed this was because their parents regularly drive distracted.
This tells us a few things, most notably that new teen drivers are well aware of the dangers posed by distracted driving. We know this awareness doesn’t translate into a new generation of drivers completely avoiding their phones, but it is a step in the right direction. Most of us learned to drive without such distractions and it took us years to understand the risks, but teens seem well aware. Your new driver might be confident – maybe overconfident, in some cases – but that doesn’t mean he or she is entirely wrong.
Teens are watching you drive
These answers also tell us that teens pay attention to and learn from other drivers, including parents. We always say that parents are the number one influence on teen driver habits, but we also know that it’s not always easy to practice what you preach. Hopefully, these answers reinforce your need to stay involved and not leave all of the lessons to the driving school.
There’s no shortage of opportunities to teach your teen something new. The new drivers we surveyed pointed out plenty of roadway risks that terrified them, from driving alongside large trucks to dealing with impaired or distracted drivers. Check out our Pointers for Parents for new lesson ideas.
Teens want your help
When we asked what parents could do to help their teens become better drivers, almost all of our new drivers said some form of practice would help them. Whether it was more practice on a certain skill, like parallel parking, or extra guidance on how to react in certain situations, the vast majority of the teens we worked with said they wanted more help.
This should be a wake up call to every parent or caregiver out there. After all, how often does your teen come and ask you for help on something? And while your new driver might not be so clear about this, our survey implies that he or she would welcome your help if you offered it. So even if your teen has been licensed and driving alone for a while, that doesn’t mean you can’t help teach your teen something new.
We’ll dig more into these answers soon. For now, find some time during National Teen Driver Safety Week to connect with your new driver and talk about tactics to stay safe. Share your thoughts during our Twitter Chat this Thursday, 10/24, at 11 a.m. CST with the hashtag #NTDSW_19!
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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