10 Common Mistakes Young Drivers Make

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1. Getting distracted behind the wheel

Young drivers playing loud music, texting or talking with friends inside the car are at a much higher risk of crashing.  Distractions can keep a driver from noticing and responding to dangerous situations on the road.  According to a US study, crash risk doubles if two teenagers ride in a car together, and triples if there are two or more teenage passengers.

Distractions hinder a driver's ability to:

  • Scan the road effectively
  • Locate potential hazards
  • Take necessary corrective action

Any form of distraction increases the risk of accident.

2. Driving too fast for conditions

Young drivers may not have enough feel for the road and may overestimate their ability to cope with bends, wet roads or emergency stops.  Familiarity with various road conditions is something most inexperienced drivers lack. It's more difficult for them to judge speed and how long it will take to stop.  While reflexes may be sharp, interpretation of various situations isn't as developed as an older driver.  Time and practice will improve this, so it's important for young drivers to slow down and obey posted traffic speeds.

As a young driver, it is recommended not to feel intimidated into driving as fast as the posted speed when you're not feeling comfortable behind the wheel; even when other drivers pass by.  Those drivers likely have more road experience than you, and it could be that they are engaging in risky behavior.

3. Failing to scan ahead

Experienced drivers tend to constantly scan the road far ahead as well as the roadside, a habit developed over years of driving.  New drivers, generally haven't developed this skill and focus only on the road directly in front of their vehicle.

4. Taking unnecessary risks

Driving a car has inherent risk, and when combined with poor choices such as speeding through an amber light, you increase your chances of causing car crashes.

Avoid taking unnecessary risks like:

  • Neglecting to check your blind spots
  • Not using your turn signal
  • Speeding excessively
  • Driving with under the influenceI
  • Ignoring traffic signals or school zone signs
  • Changing lanes without checking blind spots

The difference between risky behavior and distracted driving is that risky behavior is deliberate, while distracted driving is often the result of ignorance.

5. Failing to maintain a safe distance

Young drivers often overestimate their ability to stop their cars in time.  Its important to always maintain adequate safety distance from the car ahead.  The higher the speed, the more braking space is needed.  Remember the 3 second rule outlined in Defensive Driving Basics.

6. Not wearing a seat belt

Seat belts play a critical role in eliminating or reducing severity of injuries you might sustain in a car accident.  Sometimes a seat belt even decides who survives a crash and who doesn't. So, please buckle up.

7. Not being able to handle emergencies

There are situations where you must swerve your car or quickly correct the direction of your wheels.  Many times, young drivers over-compensate in these situations, and lose control of their car.  Mastering emergency handling skills requires time and experience. However, it can be easier to learn to anticipate dangerous situations, which will limit the need to apply these skills.  Keeping a safe speed will help.

8. Driving while tired

Teenagers need more sleep than most adults. A typical schedule may not let a young driver get the rest their mind/body requires.  This leads to driving while drowsy, which delays reaction time, decreases awareness, and results in accidents.

9. Having teenage passengers

It's normal for young drivers to want to drive around friends, but doing so can be dangerous.  For an inexperienced driver, a single teenage passenger can increase the risk of causing a car accident.  Additionally, teenage drivers often overcrowd their cars, squeezing six or seven into a vehicle designed to seat five.  Extra passengers, particularly young friends frequently result in young drivers driving more aggressively which increases risk of accident.

10. Driving the wrong car

A young driver may not have a choice when it comes to their first car.  But, if they do, its best to choose one with the latest safety features and a solid crash safety record.  We don't recommend choosing a high-performance car, as it's easy to lose control of these vehicles as an inexperienced driver.

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