There are so many misconceptions about new teen drivers. After a teen driver has their first “incident”, you can hear all the adults saying that “They were probably playing on their phone!”. While this may be true in some instances, reality shows us that these drivers are simply not equipped with good information, and certainly lack actual experience. I am sure we all remember thinking we were the best drivers at 16! Now after many years have passed, we have learned that was far from true. Does anyone really think an online driving course that quizzes you on a yield sign prepares you for complex left hand turns in traffic? Did the driving school take them out at night, in the fog, or on a highway off ramp after it recently rained? Of course not. The truth is new drivers lack a depth of experience to prepare them for the reality of driving.
Think of any job. Can you think of any task that kills more than 40,000 people per year? Driving is a task and a very necessary one for most of us. So now envision starting a new job with a company where you are doing to do a “task” like driving. They bring you in to a small group and give you 6 hours of practice on your first day (equivalent to 6 hours behind the wheel) and then they turn you loose. On the second day you are badly injured doing the very “task” they trained you on. They would throw away the key on the employer for not better preparing you to accomplish the task safely – and yet, that is all the behind the wheel time most new teen drivers are required to take before receiving a license, scary right? Cell phone or no cell phone, they just aren’t ready for how complicated things have become. I certainly don’t know all the stats about how many of us “50-somethings” had to learn to drive on six lane highways but many teens now face that daily, among many other challenges with evolving technology at their fingertips.
What you can do! Look for ANY opportunity to mentor teens, provide guidance and offer training to make them safer. Simulators can’t be the only answer but they offer a chance to give extensive experience in situations that are otherwise too dangerous to practice in. Parents! Remember they watch what YOU do when driving so do NOT use your cell phone in the car even when stopped at an intersection. Check out the Resources page on our website for useful links and great articles offering parenting tips.