Learning what to look for is the mental aspect of driving. When scanning and recognizing on-road hazards, the driver's observations fall into several categories outlined below. These will help guide you as you showcase different aspects of safer driving for your teen.
Before Starting the Engine -We all must make a conscious decision to avoid being the cause for an auto crash. Never drive impaired and never ride with anyone impaired. When approaching your parked vehicle, look in front, under and behind, scanning for any objects in your travel path. Eliminate distractions prior to driving. To reduce deaths and injuries if a crash occurs, verify that all occupants are belted-in.
Keeping Your Eyes Out Front - Drivers should be looking at all of the potential hazards at least 12 seconds out in front of their car. They should be scanning for any objects, traffic zones, signals and signs, pavement markings, pedestrians and other vehicles. This is the first step in planning the safest travel path.
Intersections and Traffic Lights - Drivers should be scanning as they approach each intersection, watching for traffic lights or signs, any pedestrian movement, and the location and activity of any vehicles. They must also look left, right and left again to make sure that every intersection is safe before entering. Intersections include driveways and parking lots. Drivers should be prepared to stop at every intersection, even if they have the right-of-way. It does not matter who's right if someone is killed or injured in a crash.
Space Cushion - Drivers should constantly be looking at their following time and the space in front of their car. This is the only space that we have total control over. When we hit another car in the rear, it's usually because we're distracted. Since the number of distractions we face has increased over the years, I would recommend a 4 second following time and when someone pulls in front of you, back off and re-establish your 4 seconds.
Sides of the Roadway - Drivers should be scanning the activity near their travel path, such as pedestrians, parked vehicles, trees, bushes or other objects near the road that may hide hazards such as children or animals.
Rearview Mirrors - Drivers should be checking one of their mirrors every 8 - 12 seconds to visualize the movement of vehicles on the side and behind their car. When changing lanes, a defensive driver uses their blinker, checks their mirror and turns their head to be sure that any area not seen in the mirror is clear. Avoid all unnecessary backing and if you do back, check your mirrors, carefully watching for pedestrians and other vehicles.
Speed - Drivers should always know their speed and the speed limit. They should react to those hazards that require a reduction in speed, such as weather or road conditions. Speeding is a major factor in auto crashes and gives us less time to react to the hazards that we've recognized.
New drivers should perfect hazard recognition while riding in a passenger seat prior to getting behind the wheel. If your teen is already driving, the quicker they learn to scan, recognize and react - the safer they'll be.