Driver Inexperience Overview
Every few weeks, I will be diving deep into one of the eight danger zones. This week I will discuss the dangers of driver inexperience and what you can do to ensure your teen is prepared to safely drive. Driver inexperience is the leading cause of collisions among novice drivers… but why are these statistics much higher than the other danger zones? Driver inexperience is common due to the lack of practice a novice driver has. In fact, one in two novice drivers will get into a collision within their first year of driving! Without ample training in various scenarios and conditions, drivers are not prepared to deal with these new situations on their own.
75% of teen crashes are due to driver inexperience (NSC, 2020)
What is it about inexperience that leads to crashes? Those that lack adequate practice do not know how to appropriately react in many situations, including adverse weather, quick-reaction situations or different road conditions. Without experience in a variety of situations, new drivers may drive too fast, lack scanning ability to see dangers in time or lose control when faced with a difficult decision. It is no doubt that the statistics are scary, so how can you avoid letting your teen become one of them?
PRACTICE, and then PRACTICE some more
Practicing driving with your teen is the BEST way to reduce the likelihood of them getting into a collision due to inexperience. How much practice is necessary? Each state has different requirements for the amount of practice that is needed. However, as a parent or guardian, you should consider exceeding these expectations.
Come up with a plan to slowly progress into more challenging driving situations as your teen becomes more prepared and confident. Never push your teen into a driving situation that they are not ready for. Be patient, level-headed, and explain what your teen did right and wrong calmly and constructively.
Once your teen has mastered the basics and both feel they are ready to progress, you can consider starting to practice in the following situations:
- Adverse weather (heavy rain, snow, wind)
- Nighttime driving
- Driving in heavy traffic
- Driving on the freeway
- Driving in rural areas
Tips for Adverse Weather Driving
For new drivers, driving in adverse weather conditions can be intimidating and nerve-racking. It is essential to go over the basics with your teen before putting them into a real-life situation and then slowly progress to more difficult driving in these types of weather conditions. Explain the weather condition and how it will affect the road and visibility. Emphasize that increasing following distance is crucial as reaction times may be lengthened. Talk them through driving, and remember, the more practice they get, the better equipped they will be when they start to drive in these conditions without your supervision and guidance.
Driving at Night
Driving at night significantly reduces visibility, which is why it poses a significant risk for novice drivers. It is vital that your teen understands this and is prepared. Nighttime driving even serves as its own danger zone, so you can imagine how risky driving at night can be for your teen without proper experience and practice.
Driving in Heavy Traffic
Driving in heavy traffic can be overwhelming for your teen. They must take their time and pay attention to possible hazards! Start your teen (when ready) in low and moderate traffic conditions before introducing them to a heavy traffic situation. The gradual increase will help with confidence.
Driving on the Freeway & in Rural Areas
Like any new driving situation, your teen may be unfamiliar with driving on the freeway or in rural areas. It is essential to chat with them about the differences and rules before entering the situation. When your teen is ready, introduce them to driving on the freeway on a quieter time, so it is not too overwhelming. As your teen gains confidence, you can start to practice in more complicated freeway situations.
There is no specific number of hours to guarantee that your teen is ready, but you can gauge this through supervision and through their confidence levels. One rule always applies…more practice is better than less!
To learn more about the 8 Danger Zones, visit our blog post which outlines the remaining seven zones.
NSC. (2020). Inexperience. Retrieved from https://www.nsc.org/driveithome/teen-driver-risks/inexperience