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5 Tips for Safe Teen Driving

Sources estimate that 6/10 teen accidents were caused by distracted driving. Of those drivers, 80% "see themsevles as safer-than-average drivers who don't belive their distracted driving puts them at risk." Teaching your teen to be a attentive driver is vital to their safety. Learn more about the responsibilities of teen driving here:

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) national president Jan Withers, “the 100 most deadliest days of the year for our teens are between Memorial Day and Labor Day.” The excitement of proms, graduations, and being out of school makes for two results: more teens on the roads and more teen driving accidents. As a parent, you can’t be with your teen every time they get in a car, but you can pass along some valuable tips and information for staying safe on the roads this summer.

Tip#1 - How to Spot a Drunk Driver

It’s not always possible to tell if another driver is under the influence, but there are certain driving behaviors that are strong indicators.

Look out for drivers who:

  • Drive without headlights. Forgetting to turn on headlights at night and not realizing they’re not on is one of the most recognized signs of a drunk driver.
  • Straddle the center lane marker.
  • Drive too slowly. It is possible to drive so slowly that it is unsafe, such as being under the minimum on highways. Impaired drivers might be overly cautious and drive slower than the normal traffic flow to avoid suspicion.
  • Weave. Intoxicated drivers might be unable to stay in the correct lane or drive straight.
  • Speed, including drivers who accelerate and brake abruptly instead of gradually.
  • Drive erratically, such as making turns from the wrong lane, driving outside of the lanes (wrong side of road, on sidewalks or grass).

Sourced from and

Tip#2 - How to Respond If You Suspect an Impaired Driver

If you notice any driving behaviors that seem suspicious or that are on the list above, MADD suggests:

  • Stay as far away from the other vehicle as possible.
  • Do not try to pass the vehicle or signal the driver to pull over.
  • Take note of the car details, including make, model, color, and license plate information if it is safe to do so.
  • Pull over and call 911. Provide them with as much information as possible regarding location, direction vehicle is traveling, vehicle description, and manner in which the vehicle is being driven.

Tip#3 - Develop a Defensive Driving Mindset

Unfortunately, some drivers don’t have to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol to engage in illegal or thoughtless driving behaviors. Teen driving expert Timothy Smith recommends teaching your teen to drive with a defensive mindset from the start.

“Developing a defensive driving mindset is key to helping reduce your teen’s crash risk. This is a mindset that doesn’t expect people to obey the law and make the right driving decisions,” explains Smith, author of Crashproof Your Kids: Make Your Teen a Safer, Smarter Driver.

Being a defensive driver, or raising one, can come from having a “What if?” mentality. Encourage your teen to ask “What if this happens…” and take turns presenting different situations as a way to talk about various scenarios and outcomes. This is an effective way to teach your teen the proper responses to unsafe or unexpected driving situations. Knowing what to do is the first step to being able to then apply those techniques quickly when they’re truly needed. This is especially important because our instincts are not always correct.

“For instance, what if an animal runs out in front of your car? Now the proper response is to brake hard but stay in your lane. The tendency is often to want to change lanes or go off the road to avoid the animal, but if you do that, your risk increases exponentially,” says Smith.

If you don’t expect the optimal result and are prepared in case of the worst result, the shock and anger over other people’s driving mistakes won’t be there to ruin your day or ignite road rage, which in itself is a safety bonus.

Driving with this type of mentality means knowing the safest responses to possible obstacles or dangers ahead of time, and then being vigilant and ready to apply those at any time. It also means not relying on those around you to keep you safe.

Tip#4 - When Driving, Look Where You Want To Go

...Not where you want to avoid. What can perhaps be included in your defensive driving instructions is this driving tip adopted from professional race car drivers. In the case that you or your teen finds yourselves sliding and losing traction, keep your gaze directed to the place where you want the car to go. For example, don’t look at the guard rail that you’re hoping to avoid, because it will make you more likely to subconsciously steer into it.

“Teach your teen [that] where their eyes move, their hands and the steering follows. So look where you want to go, not at what you want to avoid,” says Smith.

Tip#5 - Turn Technique

Another driving technique your teen can pick up from professional race car drivers is how to properly execute a turn. Most drivers realize that they need to slow down when turning, but did you know that all of the braking should be done on the approach?

“Don’t ask your tires to turn and brake at the same time. Scrub off all that speed,” says Smith. “So coast into the turn, accelerate out of the turn just like racers do.”

For more information on these and other helpful driving tips for parents and teens, check out more videos from teen driving expert Timothy Smith here.

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