Skip to main content
Whoa

Learning how to drive safely in a variety of traffic situations requires a lot of instruction, practice, and exposure. The first years of driving are often the most dangerous. Crash rates are at the most high within the first months of driving.

graph-displaying-crashes-are-most-high-when-first-learning-to-drive
(Source: Measuring Changes in Teenage Driver Crash Characteristics During the Early Months of Driving)
Caption: Young driver crashes by months licensed in North Carolina, Nova Scotia, and Victoria.

In 2015, 81 teens (ages 15-19) were killed on North Carolina roads (NCDOT).
In 2014, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death in the United States for every age 16 through 24 (NHTSA).
Half of all teens will be in a car crash before graduating high school (National Safety Council).
One-third of fatal teen crashes occur at night, and over half of those crashes happen between 9pm and midnight (CDC).
In 2013, North Carolina had the 5th highest number of fatalities in crashes involving young drivers (NHTSA).
In 2015, over 57% of teen road fatalities in North Carolina involved speeding (NCDOT).
In 2015, over 82% of teen fatalities involved a car leaving the designated lane (NCDOT).

Per mile driven, drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 or older (IIHS).

For parents

How to keep your young driver safe on the road?

  • Discuss and sign a Parent-teen Driving Agreement with your young driver.
  • To earn a license, your teen driver is required to complete 60 hours of supervised driving. This experience will prepare your young driver to understand potential risks and safely navigate the roads when driving alone.
  • Enforce the GDL restrictions and guidelines for supervised driving with your new driver.

 

Tips: Behind the wheel – Supervised Driving

 

Ride with your teen driver in a variety of situations and roadway types, including nighttime driving, driving in rain, rural roads, highways, etc.
Always remain calm

Additional stress can make fluster your young driver and make it difficult for him or her to react correctly. If your young driver experiences a near miss, ask them to pull over and discuss the situation.

  • Why do you think this happened?
  • What could have been done to prevent this near miss?
  • How will you avoid this situation in the future?
Give advice from your own experience

Use “I” statements to explain how an experienced driver handles the road.

  • “When I’m driving, I pay attention to two cars ahead of mine. If I see brake lights down the road, I slow down early, even before the car in front of me brakes.
  • “If I see a car swerving through traffic or tailing someone else, I slow down and give them space in case they decide to cut over in front of me.”
  • “Before I change lanes, I always turn my signal on early and check my blind spots.”

Ask your young driver higher order thinking questions, which will help them to anticipate risky situations and predict what other drivers may do.
 

Higher-Order Thinking

Higher-order thinking can help teach your new driver to think critically about potential risks and how to avoid dangerous situations. Anytime you are in a vehicle with your young driver, ask high-order thinking questions…

 

What is different about driving conditions during a sunrise or sunset?

Discussion: Drivers who are traveling toward the sun may have a harder time seeing things the road. During this time of day, never assume that a car can see you.

How can you tell if someone is driving distracted?

Discussion: Swerving back and forth in lane. Traveling for distances while straddling two lanes. Running off of the road.

If you suspect someone is driving distracted, what should you do?

Discussion: Stay away from the swerving vehicle as much as possible, while still maintaining a safe speed.

Why should you leave space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you?

Discussion: The distance between you and the next vehicle is how much space you will have to stop in time. If you follow too closely, you risk hitting another vehicle.

How do you spot an aggressive driver?

Discussion: An aggressive driver may be speeding and tailgating other vehicles. Anticipate that he or she may try to cut in front of you in a relatively small space. Don’t try to “block” aggressive drivers, instead, give them more space and try to be patient.

 

Tips: Unsupervised Driving

 

Anytime that your young driver goes out, ask about rides and who will be driving. Research shows that riding with other teen drivers is risky and additional passengers only add to the chances of a crash.
Utilize free safe driving apps to monitor driving when you are not in the car.
TrueMotion tracks distractions, speed, aggressive driving, and other behaviors that may put your young driver at risk
Before handing over the keys, discuss and enforce the 5 to Drive (see below).

 

Enforce the 5 to Drive

5-to-drive-logo

Discuss these rules (developed by NHTSA) with your young driver before handing over the keys.

Lead by example by following these rules as well.

 

Drinnk Icon
No Drinking and Driving.

Remind your teen that drinking before the age of 21 is illegal, and alcohol and driving should never mix no matter your age.

Seatbelt Icon
Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Seat.

If you wear your seat belt every time you’re in the car, your teen is more likely to follow suit. Remind your teen that it’s important to buckle up on every trip, no matter how far or how fast.

No Phones Icon
No phones.
  • Distractions lead to crashes. One study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that half of teen drivers on cell phones did not brake or steer before crashing (AAA).
  • Remind your young driver about the dangers of using the phone while driving—whether it’s texting, calling, navigating, or changing music.
speeding-was-a-factor-for-29-percent-of-teen-drivers-in-fatal-crashes
No speeding.

Drive the speed limit and require your young driver to do the same. Every time speed doubles, stopping distance quadruples.

fatal-crash-risk-increases-with-more-teen-passengers-in-car
No More Than One Passenger at Any Time.

With each passenger in the vehicle, your teen’s risk of a fatal crash goes up. Don’t allow your new driver to ride with more than one passenger unless you are also present in the vehicle.

 

For young drivers

Learning how to drive? Awesome. Unfortunately, the first few years of driving are often the most dangerous. It’s important to be aware of the risks you now face behind the wheel. But don’t be discouraged. You have the power and ability to keep yourself and your friends safe by following these guidelines.

Before driving – make sure you follow the “5 to Drive”:

 

Drink Icon
No Drinking and Driving.
  • A conviction of drinking and driving underage in North Carolina costs approximately $2,000 (including fines, court costs, and attorney’s fees).
Seatbelt Icon
Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Seat.
  • Without a seatbelt, a person is 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle. 3 out of 4 people who are ejected from a vehicle during a crash are killed (NHTSA).
No Phones Icon
No phones.
  • Distractions lead to crashes. One study found that half of teen drivers on cell phones did not brake or steer before crashing (AAA).
  • Put your phone in the glove box to eliminate the temptation.
speeding-was-a-factor-for-29-percent-of-teen-drivers-in-fatal-crashes
No speeding.
  • When your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples –meaning that it takes three times longer to stop.
risk-of-fatal-crash-increases-with-the-number-of-teen-passengers-in-car
No More Than One Passenger at Any Time.
  • With each passenger, your risk of being in a fatal crash goes up.

 

Is someone driving dangerously?

Speak up. Passengers accounted for nearly 1/3 of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2013 (IIHS). It is your right as a passenger to speak up if you feel unsafe.

In any vehicle that you occupy, you have the power to prevent a crash. Empowered Passenger.

 

Be direct.

“You’re making me nervous. Can you slow down?”

Be helpful.

“Here, let me text for you.”

Bring up law enforcement.

“I’ve seen a lot of cops pulling people over today— you may want to slow down.”

Make it personal.

“A friend of mine got in a bad wreck and I really don’t want to go through what she did. Can you please pay attention to the road?”

Call attention to bad drivers.

“I can’t believe that person is tailing that other car! That’s a wreck waiting to happen.”

Use facts. Try These:
  • In a car traveling 30 mph, a person not buckled up can weigh as much as a midsize car when thrown in a crash. That impact can kill another passenger.
  • Even with their eyes on the road, a person talking on the phone while driving can be cognitively “blind” to up to 50% of their physical surroundings.

(Some ideas taken from “5 ways to get drivers to stop texting” The Nemours Foundation)

Graduated Driver's License
Drivers Education.

In North Carolina, new drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 must complete the NC Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program, which consists of driver’s education and two levels of permit restrictions preceding a full provisional license. Driver’s Education is provided in all 115 school districts in North Carolina and is available to all public, private, charter, federal and home school students enrolled in the state.

The GDL program works.
  • Research has shown that “good” GDL programs (as classified by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) can reduce teen motor vehicle fatalities by 19.4% (Morrisey, Grabowski, Dee, & Campbell, 2006).
  • Fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers in North Carolina declined 57% after the implementation of the GDL program in 1997 (Foss, Feaganes, and Rodgman, 2001).

 

For a simple summary of the GDL program, click here.
Resources

Learn more about the Vision Zero Initiative

Vision Zero Partners     FAQ