For most teenagers, first getting behind the wheel is a liberating experience.
Learning to drive is one of the biggest milestones of adolescence. While first learning to drive is a huge stepping stone toward adult life, teenagers are likely to make common mistakes due to their lack of experience. That’s where driver education comes in. Through training and experience, teenagers can learn how to properly handle a car on the crowded and often chaotic roads we all traverse every day.
Ben Baron, owner of DriveSafe – the largest driver’s education school in Colorado – provides just that service to young drivers. These are the top 10 mistakes teens make when first getting behind the wheel:
Kicking off this list is likely the first word that comes to mind when talking about teen drivers. Ask someone on the street what the most common teenage driving mistake might be, and the first response is likely, “they drive too [expletive] fast!” That is indeed one common mistake teens make when they’re first learning to drive, but the issue is a bit more nuanced than that.
“Students bring their personality to the exercise”, says Baron, and that can have a profound effect on young drivers. Not only can overconfidence lead to teens driving too quickly, but a lack of confidence means they can also drive too slowly for traffic conditions. Teen drivers are also likely to misjudge their own speed, as well as struggle to maintain it.
“We’re making sure teens have the skills necessary to be safe on the road.” One of the most common mistakes teen face comes in their interaction with other motorists. Namely, the understanding that their actions affect the drivers around them. If teens exhibit erratic behavior, it’s difficult for other drivers to gauge what they might do.
8) Following too closely
Young drivers can struggle to learn the dimensions of their own car when they’re first learning to drive. DriveSafe maintains a “3 second” following rule, so their students don’t follow other motorists too closely. Learning how to properly negotiate turns is also a major sticking point for newbie drivers. It’s critically important for young drivers to be aware of their surroundings, and failing to check around the car, rather than just immediately ahead, is another common mistake young drivers make.
7) Rules of the road
In Colorado, drivers can receive their learner’s permit on their 15th birthday. They’re required to hold the permit for one year, getting their actual driver’s license on their 16th birthday. However, after teens turn 16, they can’t have any friends in the car for six months, and can only have one friend in the car from 6 months to one year after getting their license. A common mistake is that teenagers want to drive with their friends, so they don’t adhere to this rule.
6) Driving like their folks
While we’re growing up, we first learn how to engage with the world through our parents. Here’s the thing: sometimes our parents don’t practice great habits, including in the car. One common mistake teens can make is emulating the bad habits of their parents. That can carry over into their driver education and real-world driving, with potentially harmful consequences.
5) Tired driving
Being a teenager often means staying out with friends or just keeping awake into the small hours, and that can lead to tired driving. Given teen drivers’ lack of experience on the roads, driving tired can lead to a serious accident.
4) Situational awareness
Tying into the unpredictability, teens lack awareness when they’re first learning to drive. DriveSafe teaches their students the fundamentals of driving in 30 hours of classroom time, and encourages 100+ hours of experience on the road (at least ten hours at night), so they can learn how to drive safely. That includes developing situational awareness, so a teen driver knows the road, other motorists, and potential obstacles or hazards while on the move.
3) Poor car control
Car control is something you can only learn with experience. Tuition helps as far as understanding how to correct a car that’s gone out of control, but the only way to really learn how to do it is through practice. DriveSafe teaches students skid control in a five-hour “defensive skills day”, so teens know how to keep a car under control, rather than overcorrecting and causing a serious accident.
2) Wrong car
Let’s face it, teens don’t exactly want to drive around in a Toyota Camry as their first car. However, as new drivers learn the ropes, buying a safe car is an obvious plus point for parents. However, it’s also important to consider how easy it is to see out of a car, as well as how easy it is to adjust the seats, mirrors and steering wheel for proper driving.
1) Distracted driving
In today’s technology-laden environment, distracted driving is becoming a greater problem. Not just with teenagers, either. However, teens are more likely to drive distracted by virtue of using their cell phones, or even just using systems inside the car. If an inexperienced driver tries to use more complicated infotainment systems, for instance, they may take their eyes of the road, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
“Another kind of distraction that people don’t tend to talk about is life and emotions. If you’re excited, if you’re super sad, angry, or preoccupied, that also is a distraction that could be as significant as driving while on a phone or driving impaired.” Any time drivers young and old are emotional, it can take them out of the moment, which may result in disastrous consequences.
Parents, have you or do you plan to enroll your kids in driver’s education courses? What are some other common mistakes you see teenage drivers make on the road? Let us know in the comments below! Check back to TFLcar.com for more news, views, and real-world reviews.