When your teen passes his driver’s license exam, he starts a critical journey towards gaining valuable driving experience and developing good judgment behind the wheel.
This year, National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 18-24) focuses on the dangers of impaired driving with the slogan ‘Avoid the Regret – Avoid Impaired Driving.’
Impaired driving can stem from from alcohol or drug use, being distracted (from texting), and feeling tired or upset.
We spoke with world champion drag racer Clay Millican, a spokesman for B.RA.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe), a free defensive driving course started by his friend and fellow drag racer, Doug Herbert. Herbert’s two sons were killed in a head-on collision when his 17-year-old son lost control of his car. The tragedy led both men to focus on helping beginning drivers.
“Teens are excited about driving,” says Millican. “But there are so many things going on and adults have become programmed to handle situations. A teenager has no idea how to pay attention to these things.” He says that 89 percent of teenage drivers will have an accident of some kind.
Talk to your teen driver about learning the following:
Don't panic when a wheel drops off the edge of the road
“One of the highest causes of accidents for teens is having a wheel jump off the edge of the road. Teens will jerk the wheel back to return the car to the road, which can cause a skid. Help teen drivers understand that they shouldn’t panic and overreact. They should gingerly and carefully bring the car back on the road.”
Learn how to make sound decisions in the heat of the moment
“A teen driver might drive down the road when something falls out of a truck or an animal jumps out into the road. He has no choice but to make a lane change. It’s a split decision to make the lane change and he has to be aware if there is a car in the next lane.”
Learn how to handle panic stopping and skidding
“If roads are wet and slick, drivers can lose control even with anti-lock braking systems. Teenagers should practice controlling the car and learn how to recover from skids. In the B.R.A.K.E.S. course, we wet the parking lot so that students learn what a skid feels like and what to do.”
Avoid distractions while driving
“In our class, students negotiate a tight course of cones in a parking lot while an instructor deliberately tries to distract them. Students quickly see how distractions affect their driving. We have students text while driving through cones to show how hard it is to text and drive. We’re showing teenagers how easy it is to get off course when they are distracted.”
In early 2016, B.R.A.K.E.S. will offer a free defensive driving class in the Memphis area for ages 15 to 19. Go here to learn more • putonthebrakes.org.