New teen drivers are the highest risk category for accidents. Sadly, according to the Center for Disease Control, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash
Even with exceptional driver’s education and behind the wheel training, new drivers tend to make some dangerous errors on the road and could do with some driver improvement. In an effort to keep young drivers safe, here is a quick list of the 5 most common mistakes new drivers make — so you can avoid them.
Even with specific laws in 39 states that ban texting and driving, there are plenty of other things that can distract a new driver. Rowdy passengers, excessively loud music, grooming — all of these activities can take your attention off the road. According to Distraction.gov, “11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.”
Even if a young driver had practiced plenty before taking that driver’s test, there are new challenges every time they take the wheel. Taking your eyes and your focus off the road, whether it’s to read a text message or talk to a passenger, can be dangerous — and illegal.
Driving Too Fast
Speeding is a factor in one out of every three fatal accidents, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. For young drivers, the act of going fast just comes naturally. Teenagers are always in a hurry, but exceeding the speed limit could result in a costly ticket — or worse. Stick to the appropriate speeds posted for those roads and you’ll get to your destination in one piece.
New drivers don’t have the experience to handle sudden changes in the driving environment. Traffic can slow or stop suddenly. Another car could swerve into your lane. Driving too closely to the car in front of you decreases the opportunity to react appropriately and increases the risk of an accident. Putting enough distance between you and other cars on the road will allow adequate time to react and hit the brakes if necessary. Driving too closely to the car in front of you decreases the opportunity to react appropriately and increases the risk of an accident.
Failing to Use Seat Belts
According to the Center for Disease Control, traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for teens in the U.S. Wearing a seat belt is a simple way for new drivers to ensure their safety. Yet the NHTSA states, “. . . the majority of teens (16 to 20 years old) continue to be unbuckled (56% in 2009).” Not only is it dangerous to drive without buckling in, but it is also illegal. In 49 states plus the District of Columbia, strict seat belt laws are enforced. New drivers can avoid annoying tickets by securing their seat belt before hitting the road.
Driving Under the Influence
It’s so disappointing to even put this on the list, yet according to the NHTSA, “car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about one-third of those are alcohol-related.” Sadly, drinking and driving is a huge problem for drivers of all ages, but especially teenagers. While all 50 states have a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving, it still happens excessively often.
Every new driver needs to remember that driving under the influence isn’t just against the law – it also impairs your reaction time, vision, coordination, and decision-making abilities. All these factors combine to make a dangerous driver who could be putting themselves and others at risk if they get behind the wheel.