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Health Information For Teens
As a defensive driver, you can avoid crashes and help lower your risk behind the wheel.
If you’ve been out on the roads, you know that not everyone drives well — but most people think they do. Some drivers speed aggressively. Others wander into another lane because they aren’t paying attention. Drivers may follow too closely, make sudden turns without signaling, or weave in and out of traffic.
Aggressive drivers are known road hazards, causing one third of all traffic crashes. But inattentive or distracted driving is becoming more of a problem as people “multitask” by talking on the phone, texting or checking messages, eating, or even watching TV as they drive.
You can’t control the actions of other drivers. But updating your defensive driving skills can help you avoid the dangers caused by other people’s bad driving.
Before you get behind the wheel of that two-ton frame of glass and steel, here are some tips to help you stay in control:
Stay focused. Driving is primarily a thinking task, and you have a lot of things to think about when you’re behind the wheel: road conditions, your speed and position, observing traffic laws, signs, signals, road markings, following directions, being aware of the cars around you, checking your mirrors — the list goes on. Staying focused on driving — and only driving — is critical to safe driving.
Distractions, like talking on the phone or eating, make a driver less able to see potential problems and properly react to them. It’s not just teen drivers who are at fault: People who have been driving for a while can get overconfident in their driving abilities and let their driving skills get sloppy. All drivers need to remind themselves to stay focused.
Stay alert. Being alert (not sleepy or under the influence) allows you to react quickly to potential problems — like when the driver in the car ahead slams on the brakes at the last minute. Obviously, alcohol or drugs (including prescription and over-the-counter drugs) affect a driver’s reaction time and judgment. Driving while drowsy has the same effect and is one of the leading causes of crashes. So rest up before your road trip.
Watch out for the other guy. Part of staying in control is being aware of other drivers and roadway users around you (and what they may suddenly do) so you’re less likely to be caught off guard. For example, if a car speeds past you on the highway but there’s not much space between the car and a slow-moving truck in the same lane, it’s a pretty sure bet the driver will try to pull into your lane directly in front of you. Anticipating what another driver might do and making the appropriate adjustment helps reduce your risk.
When you drive defensively, you’re aware and ready for whatever happens. You are cautious, yet ready to take action and not put your fate in the hands of other drivers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 90% of all crashes are attributed to driver error.
Following these defensive driving tips can help reduce your risk behind the wheel:
If you’re interested in taking a defensive driving course to help sharpen your driving knowledge and skills, contact your local AAA or your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Many states keep a list of approved defensive driving course providers, and lots of these offer online programs. In some states, you may be eligible for insurance premium discounts, “positive” safe driving points, or other benefits. These courses do cost money, but it’s worth the investment to be a smarter, safer driver.
Although you do your best to drive responsibly and defensively, it’s still a good idea to know what to do just in case you end up in an accident.
Factors beyond your control may affect driving conditions: rain, wind, snow, ice, bright sun, fog, and hail, just to name a few. So what should you do if you find yourself driving in bad weather?
You have joined the millions of new drivers already behind the wheel. Here are a few tips to keep you both sane and safe.
Congestion, nighttime, and construction zone driving are tricky driving conditions. Here are tips for teen drivers on handling these situations.
If a texting driver is making you nervous but you’re not sure how to bring the topic up, here are some ideas.
Whether you’re driving your friends to the beach for the day or going on vacation with your family, read these tips for surviving road trips.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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