3 Common Mistakes Made By All Teen Drivers

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A lot of teenagers simply can’t wait to get behind the wheel. But while the freedom a driver’s license provides can be exciting, it’s important to keep that excitement in check. Unfortunately, the combination of lack of experience, smartphones, and incomplete brain development has the potential to have dangerous consequences out on the open road. Nearly 20% of 11th graders have reported being the driver in a car crash within the last year. Fortunately, many of the mistakes that often lead to serious accidents can be avoided. That is, as long as these young drivers are aware of the pitfalls from the moment they start to practice driving. Below, you’ll find three common mistakes teen drivers are likely to make. This list will help young drivers be better prepared for whatever comes their way and can help them avoid making these catastrophic mistakes themselves.

  1. Distraction
    Distraction can be a problem for drivers of any age, but it’s especially serious for teen drivers. When you first learn to drive, nothing will be automatic. While some things will eventually become second nature (like turning your brights on and off or adjusting your windshield wiper speed), complete concentration is particularly important in those early stages. That means that everything from eating and changing the radio station to GPS navigation and (of course) texting should be off-limits. Your focus should be on the road and on your surroundings, not on passengers in the backseat or on your phone. Taking your eyes off the road for even a second can have disastrous consequences.
  2. Speeding and Tailgating
    Inexperienced drivers will often underestimate how fast they’re going or how much time they need to come to a proper stop. And if they’re learning how to drive from a family member, rather than through driving courses and drivers ed practice tests, they’re likely to imitate unsafe driving behaviors they see. Traveling above the speed limit (particularly in inclement weather) or failing to maintain the proper following distance can easily cause an accident. As a rule, you should maintain at least a three-second gap between your car and the one in front of you. At a stop light, make sure you have a full car’s length of space between your car and the one in front. When the speed limit increases, so should this following distance. If you feel unsafe traveling at the speed limit posted, don’t feel pressured to go too fast before you’re ready. (Driving at too low a speed can also be dangerous, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.)
  3. Taking Unnecessary Risks
    Not only does a 16- or 17-year-old have less experience out on the road than other drivers, but the frontal lobe of their brain — the portion that is responsible for behavior and judgment — is not yet fully developed. In fact, studies have shown that this rational part of the brain won’t reach its full capacity until a person turns 25 or so. This means that a teenager will be more likely to make errors in judgment and fail to anticipate what other drivers will do (or how they should react in these circumstances). Taking drivers ed practice tests will help prepare them for the skills they need to display on an exam, but traffic lessons will help them apply these principles to the real world. Overcompensating for mistakes or underestimating the speed of another driver can make a bad situation much worse. Comprehensive driving courses or one-on-one lessons can be a great supplement to drivers ed practice tests, as they’ll give teen drivers a more complete picture of what to expect once they’re on their own. It takes time to become a truly excellent driver, so make sure your teen driver understands why it’s important to be patient and not rush the process.

Your teen might be eager to just get through their drivers ed practice tests and schedule their exam, but being overly hasty to get their license could spell trouble. Make sure you communicate with your teen about these common mistakes and how they can avoid engaging in dangerous driving behaviors. And of course, signing them up for driving school can help, too!

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