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Defensive driving tips for teens

If you have a teenage son or daughter with a driver's license, you're probably well-versed in worry. No matter how safe and experienced a driver your teen believes him or herself to be, the fact remains that the leading cause of death for individuals aged 15 to 20 is motor vehicle accidents. In fact, teens make up less than 7 percent of drivers on the roads yet they account for over a quarter of all crashes.

With such upsetting statistics, it's no wonder you're concerned. So how can you simultaneously appease your worry — at least a little — while also helping your teen learn how to stay safer on the roads? Well, for starters, you can teach your son or daughter to drive defensively. But what, exactly, is defensive driving, and how does it work?

Defensive driving

Defensive driving does not mean constantly feeling tense and anxious, or perpetually ready for an accident. Instead, it means watching other drivers and pedestrians and attempting to anticipate what they are likely to do next so that you can prepare just in case. This anticipation and preparation can go a long way towards avoiding both fender-benders and more serious accidents alike. So what are some defensive driving tactics you can teach your teen?

Tips and tricks

Out of every 100,000 car accidents every year in the U.S., teenagers account for 5,000 of them, as compared to a mere 500 for adult drivers with more experience; that's 10 times the number of accidents! This is likely due, at least in part, to teens' inexperience with driving, but if they can learn early to pay close attention to everything going on around them while behind the wheel and prepare themselves to react quickly and calmly to sudden dangers, they can drastically improve their safety.

Most teens probably already know the dangers of texting and driving, as distractions behind the wheel often prove deadly, but they can also decrease their chances of becoming a statistic by:

  • Paying attention to all traffic signs
  • Avoiding driving too closely behind the car in front of them
  • Learning to drive in all weather conditions
  • Always giving the right of way

Obeying traffic signs may seem like a no-brainer but it's easy to grow complacent and end up speeding or traveling the wrong way down a one-way street; therefore, remind your teen that a big part of defensive driving is knowing the laws so he or she can obey them before one small mistake results in a severe collision. Additionally, allowing plenty of room between your own car and the one ahead of you can make all the difference in avoiding a rear-end collision if the driver in front brakes suddenly.

Inclement weather is another major cause of motor vehicle accidents, so you may wish to have your teen avoid driving during bad weather and even at night until you're both more certain of his or her driving skills. Speaking of certainty, you may wish to let your inexperienced teen know that if he or she is ever unsure of who should yield to whom — such as at a four-way stop — it's often best to simply let the other driver have the right of way.

The best laid plans…

Teaching your teen to drive defensively goes a long way toward helping him or her avoid accidents and increase safety. Unfortunately, just because your son or daughter is well on the way to becoming a safe driver doesn't mean that everyone else on the road is nearly so conscientious, and even the most defensive of drivers can't avoid every accident. Thankfully, if your teenage driver suffers an injury due to another driver's fault or negligence, there are professional resources available in Richmond to help protect and support your family.

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