Teen Drivers and Road Hazards | How to Help Teens Be Safe Drivers

Teen Drivers and Road Hazards
Image courtesy of “creativedoxfoto”; freedigitalphotos.net

Nothing can prepare a new driver for all the potential road hazards they’ll inevitably encounter over years of navigating the roads…except just that. Driving.

Driver’s education courses and driving lessons will cover as many of these scenarios as possible, but where it really comes into play is in the real world.

Road hazards can range from something as simple as a pothole to something as terrifying as a child darting into the road. So this impacts every driver out there.

What’s worse, novice drivers like teenagers are already notorious for being inexperienced, too risky, too distracted, and all-around ill prepared for virtually anything other than driving in Pleasantville. (Which we all know doesn’t exist in Orange County!)

Now, we take our jobs very seriously here at Varsity Driving Academy, and we do everything in our power to ensure each student becomes as safe and skilled as possible. But the fact remains, with many of our students we are spending no more than 6-10 hours in the car with them – and we can’t possibly recreate every potential road hazard they’ll encounter in their driving careers. Here in Orange County, you won’t find too many icy roads or deer darting out into the street. Still, there are plenty of other road hazards teen drivers need to concern themselves with.

(And anything becomes a hazard when there’s a cell phone in the hand of the driver.)

What is a road hazard?

Before we can get into a discussion of road hazards, we should probably define what they are. Road hazards are basically anything on the road that could pose a danger to motorists. Road hazards include:

  • debris
  • pedestrians
  • animals/roadkill
  • hairpin turns
  • fog/ice/snow/rain/dust/wind
  • potholes
  • speed bumps
  • manhole covers
  • oil spills
  • collisions
  • and more

This study compared novice drivers (teenage, within 2 weeks of getting their license) with more experienced adult drivers with three road hazards: 1) hidden stop sign; 2) hidden pedestrian; 3) hidden pedestrian with lane closure (while texting).

The article hypothesized that “One potential reason teen drivers crash at a higher rate than other age groups may be due to perception of fewer hazards. Teen drivers may still be learning how to assess the driving environment efficiently and safely and, thus may be less likely than experienced drivers to react appropriately to road hazards.”

The findings were as follows:

Significant differences between teen drivers and more experienced adult drivers were found in a combined hazard detection analysis. Results indicate that the adult drivers observed hazards and demonstrated overt recognition of hazards more frequently than the teen drivers. Results indicated that a large portion of teen drivers failed to disengage from peripheral task engagement [text messaging] in the presence of hazards.” (Read the full article here.)

Potential solution to the problem of teen drivers and road hazards?

The Dallas Morning News recently reported on the annual Bridgestone Teens Drive Smart workshop in Arlington, Texas. Read about it here.

The gist of this free half-day driving course is to put teen drivers in scenarios where they have to deal with road hazards and then help them handle the scenarios appropriately, in a controlled environment. The outcome being to hopefully to develop better skills, awareness, and confidence. The program also emphasized the dangers of driving while distracted (ahem, TEXTING).

Could this be a solution to the problem? Integrate more simulations of potential real-life scenarios into the driver’s ed program so teens can learn how to better respond to road hazards? Food for thought!