Lesson 13: Is Your Teen a Defensive Driver?
Defensive driving is one of the most important skills for your teen to learn. While new drivers might see a vehicle as the quickest way to get from point A to point B, defensive drivers prioritize making it to point B safely, even if that means adding a few minutes to the journey. This type of thinking typically comes with experience, but you can help your teen learn it much sooner.
New drivers often have a sense of ‘invincibility’ behind the wheel, which can lead them to make unsafe choices. After all, if they have never experienced a crash, it can feel like a very unlikely risk, and going just a little bit faster or braking just a little bit less may not seem like a big deal. Being a defensive driver can help your teen overcome that recklessness, since it means expecting other drivers to make mistakes, poor decisions and unsafe maneuvers. This includes regularly scanning the road, checking blind spots, and getting behind the wheel knowing that something could go wrong, but that paying attention can help your teen stay safe.
Another crucial element in defensive driving is patience. Picture an intersection with stop signs at all four sides and heavy traffic. A defensive driver might see that other drivers are antsy to get through the intersection, and would even let someone else go out of turn, knowing that otherwise it could result in a crash. This is a lesson your teen must learn: though drivers may know what a stop sign means and how right of way works, we aren’t always in agreement about whose turn it is, who stopped first or other basics of traffic safety. Defensive driving, however, can help protect your teen in these situations.
Practice: While driving with your teen, notice any time he or she gets frustrated by other road users, and talk through the situation. Maybe your teen missed a light because the driver ahead was too slow or got cut off by a driver in a hurry; whatever it is, teach your teen to expect these issues, and leave enough time and space to react to them. It’s okay to be upset when other drivers act dangerously, but anticipating these actions will help your teen deal with them without getting overwhelmed.