Lesson 7: The Right Speed for the Conditions - National Safety Council

Lesson 7: The Right Speed for the Conditions

Driving at a safe speed will help your teen maintain control of the vehicle, but it’s not always obvious what exactly a safe speed is. The road conditions, surrounding traffic, and even the condition of the vehicle can affect the right speed for your teen, not to mention the posted speed limit. Use these tips to help your new driver learn to gauge the correct speed for the conditions.

Understand Speed Limits

Speeding is an enormous problem on our roads, one that makes every driver mistake more dangerous. Speed limits are meant to protect road users by keeping traffic to a safe speed for the conditions, but many drivers exceed them. Teach your teen to regularly check for changes in the speed limit and to stay under them, no matter what the surrounding traffic is doing. Speed limits may change quickly in construction zones or near certain structures, such as schools and hospitals, so make sure your teen knows to take these changes seriously. 

Judge Speed for the Conditions

Beyond speed limits, your teen must learn to adjust his or speed based on the surrounding conditions. Rain and snow can make steering and stopping much more difficult, so your teen should drive much slower than the posted speed limit in these situations. The same goes for times of limited visibility, such as driving at night, in the fog or on curvy roads. On busy roads, your teen should also drive at a speed that leaves enough distance between his or her vehicle and the vehicle ahead, to account for sudden stops. Finally, your teen should judge the right speed for the vehicle. In a newer vehicle, your teen might not realize how fast he or she is going, so encourage your teen to always keep an eye on the speedometer. 

Practice: During driving lessons, watch your teen’s speed and regularly ask him or her to name the posted speed limit. This will help your teen get in the habit of focusing on speed and making corrections as it changes. You can also practice accelerating from a stop to help your new driver get a sense of how long it takes to reach certain speeds, as well as how long it takes to safely brake and come to a complete stop.

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