Background on Smart Driving

General Tips to Follow

Teen drivers have the highest crash risk per mile traveled of any age group. As new drivers, teens are more susceptible to accidents and other road hazards. We all know that safety comes from first knowing the rules. Here are some general tips to keeping yourself (and your passengers) safe while out on the road...

Around School

  • Get to school a few minutes early and leave a little bit later to avoid the mad dash into and out of the parking lots. Lots of accidents happen when kids are rushing around.
  • Watch for kids getting on and off school buses.
  • Go slow -- parking lots are a dangerous place for driving because there are so many people moving in and out of cars, buildings, and buses.
  • ALWAYS stop for school buses with flashing lights. The flashing lights mean that students are either getting on or off the bus--and may be crossing the street. Their safety depends on cars obeying this law.
  • Don't park in fire lanes around the school. Not only will you probably get a ticket, but you could be blocking the area where a fire truck needs to park in case of an emergency (you don't want to be the reason your school burns down!).

Around Your Town or City

  • Avoid making left hand turns across busy intersections that don't have turn signals. It takes a while to learn how to judge the oncoming traffic so it's better to go down a block or two until you come to a light, or plan a route that doesn't need this turn.
  • Don't make assumptions about what other drivers are going to do, including when then have a turn signal on.
  • Wait for oncoming traffic to clear before you drive around an obstruction in your lane. Just because someone's blocking your lane doesn't mean you have the right of way in the next or oncoming lane.
  • Watch out for aggressive drivers and try to stay out of their way. They are the cause of a lot of accidents--especially on highways
  • Don't do anything that will cause another car's driver to slam on the brakes such as pulling out in front of their car or swerving into their lane.

In Bad Weather

  • Turn your headlights on EVERYTIME turn your windshield wipers on--in rain, fog, sleet, freezing rain, or snow. It will help your visibility--and also help other drivers see you.
  • If driving a white car during snow fall or after the snow has fallen, turn on your lights so others can see you. Your car may be camouflaged by the snow.
  • In winter, keep an ice scraper with a brush in your car in case it snows or sleets.
  • Double or triple the space you normally leave between you and the next car in front of you in bad weather. You'll need even more space to stop (up to ten times as much space) on slick roads.
  • Brake gently.
  • Make sure your exhaust tail pipe is clear if you've had to dig your car out of snow or ice or if you've backed into a snow bank. If your tail pipe is blocked you could get sick or die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • When driving on slippery surfaces like ice or snow, accelerate VERY slowly. If your wheels start to spin, let up on the accelerator until traction returns.
  • Check that windshield wipers and washer fluid works -- you may need it in snow and sleet.
  • Watch out for severe weather warnings before you drive. If a strong storm begins while you're on the road and it's raining too hard to see, try to find a safe place to pull over until the worst of the rain is over.
  • Listen to radio traffic reports and adjust your travel plans accordingly.
  • Keep windows and windshield clear.
  • Leave a window open a little bit to keep windshield from fogging up and to give you fresh air.
  • Watch for danger spots ahead. Bridges and overpasses may freeze before the roads do.
  • Test your brakes to see how far it takes you to stop when starting out in bad weather.
  • If you are stuck in ice or snow, try putting your floor mats under the edge of the tires to give them traction.

General Tips

  • Always wear your seat belt -- and make sure all passengers buckle up, too.
  • Adjust your car's headrest to a height behind your head--not your neck--to minimize whiplash in case you're in an accident.
  • Never try to fit more people in the car than you have seatbelts for them to use.
  • Obey the speed limits. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excess speed is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
  • Don't run red lights.
  • Use turn signals to indicate your intention to turn or to change lanes. Turn it on to give the cars behind you enough time to react before you move. Also, make sure the signals turns off after you've completed the action.
  • When light turns green, make sure intersection clears before you go.
  • Don't drive like you own the road; drive like you own the car.
  • Make sure your windshield is clean. At sun rise and sun set, light reflecting off your dirty windshield can momentarily blind you from seeing what's going on.
  • Drive into your garage straight, not on an angle.
  • Make sure your car has gas in it. Don't ride around with the gauge on empty -- who knows where you might get stranded.
  • Don't drink and drive, and don't ride with anyone who has been drinking. Call parents or friends to take you home if you need a ride.
  • Don't take drugs and drive. Don't ride with anyone who has been using drugs. Even some over the counter drugs can make you drowsy. Check label for warnings.
  • Don't fiddle with the radio while you are driving. It's better to wait until you can pull over and stop because even taking your focus off the road for a few seconds could lead to an accident.

Teen Driving
American Medical Association