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How safe is my student driver?

Evaluating your teen's habits before letting them drive alone

Your teen driver is confident and able. They handle the vehicle like a pro and they've never had a collision. But are they relying on good driving habits, or is it just luck?  

Five signs your teen isn't a safe driver

Cutting Corners

Taking corners too fast is a common driver error. Some drivers cut corners all the time and don't even know they're doing it wrong.  Drivers should slow and follow their lane through the turn. Cutting corners on a left turn means allowing the car to cut across the oncoming lane. If a car is coming from the left and you cut across their stopping location, you're risking a wreck. On a right turn, cutting corners results in a lot of pull force against the car. Sometimes this force takes the car wide, into the oncoming lane, and sometimes an early cut causes the driver to hit the curb with the back tire.  Cutting corners is a sure sign your teen driver is not controlling speed, timing and lane position correctly.

Quick Stops

Waiting too long at a stop sign can cause problems, but not waiting long enough can be just as bad. Teen drivers often fail to look far enough up and down the road to judge traffic.  This means they're cutting people off, but unless someone honks at them, your teen will probably not be aware they've caused a problem. This bad habit comes from failing to recognize when the driver's line of sight is blocked and you need to roll forward to the curb line, look again for traffic and then decide whether or not to proceed. Sometimes a vehicle is hidden from view by a just a few parked cars and is only a few seconds away. If the driver doesn't wait for at least 2 seconds at a stop sign, that vehicle could suddenly arrive just as your teen driver is hitting the gas, resulting in a T-bone or rear-end collision.

Passing Pedestrians

Spotting pedestrians waiting to use a crosswalk is a fun game in any town. In Oregon, all corners are crosswalks, even if there are no lines painted on the ground. A teen driver may be in the habit of sailing past pedestrians standing at crosswalks. This is even more dangerous (and illegal) when the driver passes another vehicle that is stopped at the crosswalk. Drivers need to spot pedestrians and bicyclists at a good distance ahead.

Drives by Rote

Teens who use the same routes all the time have learned the route. They know how to stop and yield at an intersection because "that's how it goes here." When faced with an unfamiliar route, however, things change. The student will fail to yield because no one is telling them what to do (when to wait, when to go), and they are not reading signs and signals. Teens who drive by rote cannot explain how their routine intersections work or why you have to wait in one situation but not another. Out there on their own, this driver is sure to get into trouble.

Relies on Mirrors for Backing

Whenever you put the car in reverse, the risk of a collision increases.  A vehicle's rear blind zone is at least two car lengths, meaning you can't see anything shorter than your trunk. On an SUV, the rear blind zone can hide an entire kindergarten class from the driver's view. Back-up cameras solve the blind zone problem, but you still need a 360-degree safety check for anything approaching from the front or the sides. Teen drivers often rely only a mirror or back-up camera, never looking out the windows.