Tragedy occurred in Lake County last week when a teen driver fatally struck a motorcyclist who was stopped behind a school bus. The driver failed to break, despite traffic being required to stop when a bus is loading or unloading children, resulting in the collision. This accident highlights just one of many scenarios that can pose serious difficulty for motorists who are new to driving, such as our Tavares’s teen drivers.
Even the most attentive driver’s ed student can forget some of the lessons they learned once they hit the road, resulting in serious mistakes and accidents. Coming off the heels of National Teen Driver Safety Week, many parents are taking it upon themselves to make sure their teens are aware of the biggest road safety dangers that face young motorists.
If your teen has just begun driving, be sure to review these five common road safety mistakes that inexperienced motorists can make.
Not Looking Out for Motorcycles
New drivers are taught to be aware of car and truck traffic around them, but may be less experienced when it comes to sharing the road with motorcycles.
Motorcycles are more difficult to see than other vehicles on the road, and can often be hidden in a car’s blind spots, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. New drivers must continually scan the roadway and use all of their mirrors to check traffic around them. Before changing lanes or turning, take an extra second to check that there aren’t any motorcyclists that could be harmed by your maneuver.
Lastly, it is important for teen drivers to remember that motorcyclists are entitled to use of a full traffic lane, just as any car would, so it is illegal to try and share a lane with a person riding a motorcycle.
Not Stopping for School Buses
In most parts of the country, there are strict laws regarding traffic around a stopped school bus. In our state, all drivers in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying its stop signal, according to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, as children may be crossing the road as they enter or exit the bus.
Be sure to explain the necessity to always stop when a school bus’s stop signal is displayed, how your teen driver should not proceed with driving until both the stop signal is withdrawn and the road is completely free of children.
Driving While Drowsy
Drowsy driving is something that families absolutely must discuss with their teens, as more than half of all drowsy driving crashes involve drivers aged 25 years or younger, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Four out of five teens get less than the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended nine hours of sleep, so it’s unsurprising that drowsy driving is such an issue for teen drivers. And because teen drivers are new to operating their vehicles, they often cannot spot the symptoms of drowsy driving until it is too late.
Parents should go over the top signs of drowsy driving with their teens. Yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly, slow reaction time, drifting from your lane, and difficulty keeping your eyes open are all signs that you are too tired to drive, according to NSF. If your teen experiences any of these signs of sleepiness, they should pull over immediately and call for a ride home.
Not Modifying Driving for Bad Weather
Bad weather conditions that impact roads in Lake County — such as rain, thunderstorms, and fog — require a different, more cautious manner of driving, which is something that novice drivers may not be prepared for. For example, during rainy weather, road surfaces become slippery as the rain mixes with oil, and hydroplaning can easily occur at high speeds. When it becomes foggy, visibility is greatly reduced and headlights are required to navigate safely.
It’s a good idea for new drivers to practice driving not just during ideal conditions, but when the weather turns bad as well. Be sure to take your more experienced teen drivers out for safe and supervised sessions of driving in these conditions so they get the experience necessary to handle rain and fog on their own when the time comes, as recommended by FLHSMV’s Florida Drivers Guide for Parents and Teens.
Distracted driving takes many forms, including adjusting the radio or navigation system, eating and drinking, and texting and driving. For drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, ten percent of fatal crashes were caused by these risky behaviors while behind the wheel, according to the NHTSA.
Help your teen to identify distractions behind the wheel and discuss ways they can resist these temptations. Turning off your phone before driving and stowing it in a bag or glove department can be a helpful way to prevent texting and driving. And while eating on the go can seem convenient, make sure your teen enjoys their meals before or after their drive, not during.
Lastly, navigation systems like GPS should never be adjusted while a vehicle is in motion. If your teen is lost and relies on their GPS to get where they need to go, they should always pull over to the side of the road to adjust their navigation instructions as needed. This helps ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road.