The top 3 critical errors teen drivers make

Your teen may have recently passed her driver’s license test, but that doesn’t mean she has the critical driving skills needed to safely hit the open road. A teen’s greatest risk of crashing is highest immediately after leaving the DMV newly licensed and remains high for the next two to three years. Driving errors due to inexperience and lack of skill cause the majority of these crashes.

In a new study from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), researchers used the Simulated Driving Assessment (SDA), a simulator-based driver assessment that can differentiate between skilled and non-skilled drivers in hazardous situations, to find out why drivers crash. Nearly 43 percent of the newly licensed teens (within three months of taking their on-road test at the DMV) had a simulated crash at least once due to making critical errors when navigating complex driving situations. For licensed and experienced adult drivers, only 29 percent crashed.

Why did they crash? Watch clips of the top 3 critical errors leading to serious simulated crashes:

According to the researchers, all of these simulated crashes could have been avoided. Here’s how to ensure that your teen gains the critical driving skills needed to avoid crashing before getting behind the wheel alone:

  • Maintain a safe following distance. Research shows that in emergency situations, teen drivers tend to be too close to the car in front of them. All drivers need to remember to keep at least three seconds distance between their car and the one directly ahead at all times and on all roads. It’s also important for teens to learn that a safe following distance might be even further back when driving at night, or in bad weather.
  • “Scan” the road while driving. Often, teens will look straight ahead while driving instead of scanning further ahead and to the sides of the car. This explains why a common type of crash for teens involves running off the road. If only looking straight ahead a few feet, even a curve is going to look straight. Help your teen  learn to keep an eye not just on the car and road in front, but also on what’s going on all around – including crosswalks and hidden driveways.
  • Drive mindfully. We all know that multitasking – texting, talking on the phone, playing with the radio – is dangerous. But distracted driving doesn’t have to involve technology: If your brain is thinking about anything other than driving, it’s multitasking, which can make it difficult to react during a potential crash. Through words and your actions teach your young driver to put electronics in the glove compartment, fasten the seat belt, and tune out any distracting thoughts – all before turning the key.

Driving is a privilege, not a rite of passage. Only you know for sure when your child is ready to take the keys. For tips on teaching your teen critical driving skills during parent-supervised practice, download the TeenDrivingPlan Parent Guide.


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