Ahem. Hey parents. We need a minute alone with the young adults in the family. You can come back later, but this Very Special Episode is just for them. If you don’t leave the room, they may not stop rolling their eyes long enough to read this whole article. We all want to prevent every possible teenage accident, right? So…bye Felicia. Old folks gone? Great. Let’s get to it.
Before you find yourself hashtagging #FML with an Instagram of your banged-up starter car, we’ve got a few pretty excellent tips on how to navigate your first years behind the wheel. Look, we know you’re a mature, responsible high schooler with just the one B-plus in Trigonometry and a part-time job at the local coffeeshop. But absolutely every driver is at-risk for accidents, especially less-experienced drivers. The last thing you need is another reason for your parents to lecture you, so we’re here to share the rookie mistakes you need to avoid.
Step 1: Get the right ride
Whether it’s a hand-me-down clunker, a junkyard rescue, or you’ve saved up enough holiday cash from Grandma over the last 15 birthdays to procure your own sweet ride, it’s vital to have a car you can rely on to be safe and dependable. Luckily there are plenty of smart people compiling safety ratings on the best car for teenagers and sharing their wisdom with the rest of us. So, before you settle on the car of your dreams, check the list to see if it also meets the top criteria for teen safety:
- Avoid High Horsepower
- Big, Heavy Car
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
- Great Safety Rating
Step 2: Put the phone down
It’s your direct connection to everything. Fine. But every text, like, comment or snap will still be there when you get to where you’re going. And, let’s be honest – if you let all the cyber-attention accumulate for more than six minutes, your double-digit notifications are going to really make you feel special when you finally sit down to review them all. The truth is this, though: Not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law. If you need to map your destination, plug in the coordinates before you ever turn the key and keep your hands free. There’s no text that’s ever important enough to risk your life. We can quote research about the average length of distraction and how that connects to increased risk all day long. But you’ve heard that all before. So, just do yourself a favor – turn the sounds off and set the phone down.
Step 3: Get smarter
Maybe the last thing you think you want to do is sit at another desk in another classroom. Voluntarily. But seriously, the last thing you actually want is to total your primary source of transportation because you just didn’t have the tools you needed to be a safer driver. So consider taking some accident prevention courses through the Virginia Insurance Department. You’ll be smarter, safer and heck, the potential discount on your car insurance ain’t half bad either.
Step 4: Slow down
When you’re on the road, it’s easy enough to recognize you’re cruising past the speed limit. It might be fun, but you know it’s not safe. But truly, more speed-related incidents occur where posted limits aren’t as obvious: parking lots and private property. They’re like a hornet’s nest of inattentive drivers, pedestrians and tightly packed obstacles. All it takes a little bit of a lead foot to earn your first fender bender badge. And when it comes to parking lot accidents, there’s a high likelihood that a term called comparative negligence will rear its ugly head. All that means is that with nobody to blame, your insurance bill takes the hit.
Step 5: Stay focused
Whether it’s the radio dial, a cellphone, a car full of friends or hazardous visits from unexpected woodland creatures, a distracted teen driver is a dangerous teen driver. Focus on the road and ride solo as often as possible. Risk for accident increases considerably for every teen passenger in a car with a teen behind the wheel.
These tips are no guarantee you’ll be 100 percent safe in your first years of driving. But they’re a great place to start. Now, go tell your parents they can come back inside. It’s hot out there.