A lot has changed since you first got your driver’s license. If your teenager is going through the process, now would be a great time to learn what has changed since you took your road test. Doing so can not only help you stay safe when on the roads of Tennessee, but can show your teen driver that there’s always room for improvement, especially when it comes to being safe behind the wheel.
Hand placement on the steering wheel
You might be surprised to learn that your teen driver will not be told to put their hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel like you were so many years ago. Instead, they will be taught to put their hands at 9 and 3. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), putting your hands at 9 and 3 can keep them from being injured when the airbag deploys during a Tennessee car accident.
Keeping a safe distance from other vehicles
You were taught to keep one car length between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you for every 10 MPH at which you are traveling. Nowadays, new drivers are being taught a three-second rule. The driver is to focus on an object that is even with the vehicle in front of yours. Count how long it takes your vehicle to reach that object. If it is less than three seconds, you are following too close to the vehicle in front of you.
Turn off all distractions
The sad thing is that many adults who have been driving for years often use mobile devices while behind the wheel. There’s that false sense of security since you have so many years of experience driving. As you lecture your child about not using a mobile device while driving, you should force yourself to do the same.
Turn off all mobile devices and put them somewhere in the vehicle that prevents you from reaching them. Even using a hands-free device to make a phone call can distract you from the task of driving as your mind will not be solely focused on the road in front of you.
Learn the basics of driving
Your teen should still be taught the basics of driving even though today’s vehicles have a lot of features that help navigate icy roads or parallel park. Refresh your memory by teaching your child how to drive on a road covered in snow or ice, how to parallel park, and how to sense a collision.
Understand the factors that make teen driving risky
Research points to a few general areas that predispose teens to being problematic drivers:
- Brain development. Teenagers’ brains really are wired differently than adults, with frontal lobes significantly less connected. The connections that do exist lack a full coating of myelin, which protects the nerve signals. When teens seem to get “their signals crossed,” that may be the literal truth of the situation occurring within their brains. The results tend to be drivers who have more trouble predicting the behavior of other vehicles on the roads, or the consequences of their own driving choices—like recklessness or failure to wear a seatbelt.
- Distractions. It seems like we’re going back to the teen movie clichés here, since blaming smartphones and vehicles packed with teenagers blasting loud music are all a stereotype. However, due to the lack of development in the young adult brain, these distractions can be a more serious issue. Teens may not have the impulse control not to glance at the text message from their crush, or skip that song they hate. When outside complications like drugs or alcohol come into play, the effects are exacerbated. Even momentary distractions on the road can be fatal for novice drivers.
- Lack of experience. Most adults in the US spend nearly an hour a day commuting—or about ten full days per year just driving to work. That’s a lot of time to perfect the skills needed for safe driving. But new drivers don’t have any of those skills; cars simply haven’t existed long enough for humans to develop “instinctual” knowledge for driving. While there is no way to gain experience except through practice, driving practice for teens should include a healthy dose of realistic fear: 6 teens die every day in car accidents.
Having a teenager with a driver’s license is scary, we know. Parents lose a lot of sleep at this point in their lives. Show your teen just how important it is to learn about road safety by seeing what has changed since you first got your license. If you ever need legal assistance because of a Tennessee car accident, be sure to call the office of Rocky McElhaney Law Firm at 615-425-2500, or complete a contact form online to schedule an appointment. Our offices are located in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Clarksville.