Safety tips from A-Z for teen drivers and parents

Safety tips from A-Z for teen drivers and parents

The process of learning to drive and getting that coveted driver’s license is a rite of passage for teens. Yes, they are anxious to become mobile and less dependent on mom or dad. Yet, it can also induce sleepless nights and premature grey hairs for YOU, the concerned parent. If your own child is close to getting a learner’s permit or driver’s license, know the A-Z facts about teen driving. It can be very dangerous. However, knowledge is power. Sit down together and read this teen driving guide from Drive Smart Georgia.

A:
Authority
When a teenager is learning to drive, he may want to spread his wings and fly too quickly. This can be a deadly mistake. You, the concerned parent, must have final and overriding authority to set rules and enforce consequences. After all, you are ultimately responsible for the safety of your child – especially when he’s ready to hit the road. A good first step to establish authority is to agree on and sign a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.

B:
Buckle Up
According to the NHTSA, a leading agency in highway safety, teens use seat belts less frequently than adults. Yet, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16-19-year-olds. The majority of these deaths involve unbuckled teens, drivers and passengers. Use of a seat belt is the single most effective means of reducing fatal and non-fatal injuries in motor vehicle accidents. When employed, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45%.  Be a good example and always wear a seat belt. Plus, insist that your teen driver does too.

C:
Caution
Of all the health risks to young people (diseases, drug overdoses, homicides, suicides), none is as likely to cause serious injury or even death than motor vehicle accidents. As a parent, it’s your job to reduce the risk of accidents that your new driver might face. That means sitting down and setting down the rules. More importantly, it’s important to follow through with real consequences if those rules are broken. Quite simply, proceed with caution because your child’s precious life could depend on it.

D:
Distracted Driving
According to AAA, 46% percent of all teenage drivers admit to text messaging while driving, and that says nothing of the teens who won’t own up to the practice. 51% admit to talking on the cell phone while driving, though most teens would probably estimate that figure to be closer to 99%. Unfortunately, both practices are quite dangerous, especially for young and inexperienced drivers. While alcohol-related teen auto fatalities are down, the overall death toll hasn’t changed. The theory is that modern technology and distracted driving have balanced out the decrease. If you’re a parent of a teen driver, it’s imperative to talk about the dangers of distracted driving. For more tips on dealing with distractions, click here.

E:
Experience
The old adage “practice makes perfect” is never more appropriate than when it comes to teen drivers. Inexperience and immaturity are both leading causes of teen crashes. A new driver simply lacks experience behind the wheel. Coupled with feeling invincible, it’s a deadly combination. The first year of driving is the most dangerous. If you think your teen needs professional lessons with a trained instructor, follow your intuition. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Before handing over those keys, ask yourself, “Does my child have enough driving experience to be safe?” If not, perhaps schedule more lessons, like those offered during the day and in the evenings at Drive Smart Goergia. It’s also a good idea to talk to your child about police protocal. Tell them how to speak to an officer and what to do if pulled over. That way, they won’t be so nervous if it does happen.

F:
Fatigue
Teenagers are the most sleep-deprived group today. When they’re not cramming for an important test, they’re completing mountains of homework. Many are also involved in sports or clubs, meaning they’re busier than ever and often not getting enough sleep. When sleepy new drivers get behind the wheel, they may forget their newly acquired good driving habits. If you’re concerned that your child is burning the candle at both ends, be sure to talk to him or her about being safe on the road when getting from point A to B. If they’re overly tired, offer to be the driver. Drowsy driving causes more than 1,500 deaths nationwide per year and 100,000 accidents in Georgia alone.

G:
Graduated Licensing
Most states in the US follow some kind of graduated licensing process. The goal is to give young drivers a controlled process to gain more experience. Georgia passed TADRA (Teenage and Adult Responsibility Act), an intense 3-step process to keep teens safer on the road. To learn more about Graduated Licensing and TADRA in Georgia, follow this link to the DDS website.

H:
Hydroplaning
Teens will eventually face scary situations, but hydroplaning can be especially dangerous. If water on the road is deeper than the tread of the tires, a fast moving vehicle may glide over the water and not touch the road surface. This condition is called hydroplaning and can be avoided by maintaining good tire tread, driving slowly when roads are wet, and having tires properly inflated. For more tips on how to avoid hydroplaning, check out this article from NAPA Auto Parts.

I:
Insurance
It’s a fact. Teens get into more accidents than experienced drivers. That’s why they’re so expensive to insure. However, here’s a bit of good news – there ARE ways to save. If your child took Driver’s Ed at an approved driving school, you can save 10% or more each and every month. Plus, not only are good grades pivotal for getting into a good school, they can also save you a lot of money on your auto insurance. Most of the major insurers carry a good student discount, which can save you as much as 25% on your auto policy. To qualify, your child needs to maintain a 3.0 or B average, and be enrolled full time in high school or college. Some insurers also give discounts to homeschoolers with good grades.

J:
Joshua’s Law
The bad news is that car crashes are still the #1 cause of death for teens between the ages of 16-19. The good news is that a law was passed in the state of Georgia in 2005 to help keep teen drivers safer on the road, despite a multitude of new and ever-present dangers. So, exactly what is Joshua’s Law? What are its restrictions for teen drivers? Be sure to check out this in-depth article about the all-important law in Georgia and 16 other states.

K:
Knowledge of Road Rules
Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage for teens. The first step to independence is getting a learner’s permit. The final step is getting that coveted driver’s license. In order to do so, Georgia drivers must pass a road skills test. This can be a bit nerve-racking, but preparation is key. So, what skills must new drivers master in order to pass the Georgia driving test? Click here for a list of required skills.

L:
Learner’s Permit
It’s critically important for teen drivers and their nervous parents to band together when it comes time to get a Georgia Learner’s Permit. You have to work as a unified team to get through the complex process. By keeping lines of communication open, as well as your eyes and ears, teaching a teen to drive is not as scary as it initially seems. So what are the steps to get a Learner’s Permit? Check out this article for everything you need to know.

M:
Minimizing Hazards
One of the toughest things to learn as a new driver is to spot a hazard in time and take evasive action to avoid a crash. To be a lifelong safe driver, it’s important to learn how to recognize potential driving hazards, like a child running into the street or a slippery road surface. As your child becomes more experienced, he will learn to anticipate dngers that pop up. Check out this article from Parents.com about seven common road hazards and how to avoid them.

N:
Nighttime Driving
The fatal crash rate for teens doubles at night, according to Teen Drivers Source. At nightfall, ordinary risks are magnified by the darkness. In Georgia, a new teen driver must have at least six hours of night driving experience before getting a driver’s license. After they have it, the state imposes a 12 midnight – 6 am curfew on drivers age 16-17.

O:
Other Roadway Users
Teen drivers need to keep in mind that cars aren’t the only roadway users. Pedestrians, motorcycles, bikes and emergency vehicles also share the road. Because motorcycles are harder to see, drivers should always check blind spots and give riders plenty of room.  Georgia’s Move Over Law says motorists travelling in the lane adjacent to the shoulder must move-over one lane when emergency and utility vehicles are stopped on the side of the highway and operating in an official capacity. Vehicles included in the law include all first responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS), utility vehicles, DOT vehicles, HERO Units and wreckers tending to an accident. The law is meant to keep officers and traffic violators safe from crashes with passing cars. In Georgia, motorists and bicyclists have equal rights and responsibilities to obey all traffic laws. Read more about sharing Georgia’s roads with cyclists by clicking here.

P:
Peer Passengers
Having peer passengers in the car is a major cause for auto accidents. Teen drivers are almost eight times more likely to get into a fatal accident when they are carrying two or more teen passengers. In Georgia, Joshua’s Law states that a new driver age 16-18 may only drive with immediate family members (no friends) for the first six months following the issuance of a driver’s license. During the second 6-month period, a new driver can have only one peer passenger in the vehicle. After one year, a teen driver in Georgia can have no more than three other passengers. Even if you think your own child is ready to hit the road, it’s imperative to follow this law to avoid potential disaster. Make sure your child knows and obeys the passenger rules – it’s the law!

Q:
Quick Versus Slow
More often than not, teens are anxious to speed through the licensing process. After all, they live in a society of instant solutions. Want to ask a friend a question? Send a text. Need to know where a college is located? Google it. Most answers and solutions are just a click away. However, learning how to drive is one area that simply can’t be rushed. Teens are anxious to pass the test, but many are simply not ready to hit the road solo. Click here to learn if your own teen is in the green, yellow or red light zone. Keep in mind that Drive Smart Georgia offers extra in-car lessons during the morning, daytime, and evening hours.

R:
Resources
If you are the concerned parent of a new teen driver, you are not alone. There is a wealth of resources out there to help guide you through the scary process. The National Safety Council, CDC, AAA and Toyota all host websites that are chock fill of valuable information about teen driving.

S:
Speeding
Teens (especially boys) may have a heavy foot and a tendency to speed. This is a bad, bad decision. According to State Farm, speeding is one of the major factors in fatal crashes involving young people. New drivers are more likely to speed at night and when other passengers are present in the car. If your own child is a speedster, be sure to set rules and consequences for getting a speeding ticket. Follow through is critical to show that you mean business.

T:
Teen Driver Stats
Teen driver statistics are downright scary. According to the CDC, the risk of auto crashes is higher among young people between the age of 16-19 than any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Males, teens driving with peer passengers, and newly licensed teens are at the greatest risk. Inexperience and risky driving behaviors are factors that put teens at such great risk. Fortunately, teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can improve the safety of young drivers on the road. Seat belt use, avoiding distractions and nighttime driving, following Joshua’s Law about teen passengers can all help keep teens safe on the road. Be sure to continuously talk to your teen about risky driving decisions.

U:
Under the Influence
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association defines driving while impaired as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. While drunk driving is on the decline, it still poses a serious problem. Every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 53 minutes. The percentage of teens in high school that drink and drive has decreased by more than half since 1991. Yet, one in ten admit to driving after having one or more drinks. Alcohol isn’t the only issue these days. There are over 400 drugs that are tracked by the NHTSA that can cause impairment, and each one has a different impact on every user. Be sure to talk to your new driver about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Set rules and enforce very serious consequences.

V:
Vehicle Maintenance
Learning road rules and practicing safe driving skills will definitely help keep your teen driver safe. However, car maintenance is also very important. Be sure to explain that upkeep is a responsibility that all drivers need to address. Car maintenance costs can often convince cash-strapped teens to shirk much-needed updates, but thousands of trouble-free miles only occur when a car is well maintained. New drivers should be shown how to monitor gauges, get familiar with the engine, check fluid levels and tire pressure. A little preventative maintenance will go a long way to keeping your teen driver safe on the road.

W:
Weather Conditions
Everyone should keep an eye on potentially changing weather conditions, but this is especially true for new and inexperienced teen drivers. Driving on ice or snow, in rain or fog, or at nighttime all pose different challenges. If at all possible, drive with your teen in as many adverse conditions as possible to give them real life experience. Check out this article from DriveSafely.net for tips on driving during rain, snow, ice, fog, or high wind.

Y:
Yielding
The driving of technique of yielding is one of the most technical and difficult to master. When do drivers need to stop and when do they need to yield? Drivers seem to have their own interpretations, so the issue is confusing to teens. A Federal Highway Administration study of 40,000 drivers at intersections controlled by stop signs revealed that two-thirds of drivers failed to stop. So, instead of assuming that other drivers will automatically yield right of way, your teen driver should pay careful attention to their intentions and actions. When in doubt, always yield to other drivers.

Z:
Zero Tolerance
Zero Tolerance laws prohibit drivers under the age of 21 from operating a motor vehicle if they have any alcohol whatsoever in their system. For drivers in Georgia over the age of 21, the legal limit is .08. Minors under the age of 21 will get a DUI with a blood-alcohol level as little as .02 percent (limits vary from state to state). A first DUI offense means 6 months of license suspension, a hefty fee, and going to a DUI alcohol or drug risk reduction program. Tell your teen about the serious consequences of Georgia’s Zero Tolerance law. A teen runs the risk of DUI with just one drink. Just say no.

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