Tips for Teens: Safe Fourth of July Driving

Though teens cannot legally celebrate the Fourth of July with alcohol, teen drivers still have to contend with intoxicated drivers on the road. Summer is always a dangerous time for teen drivers; they are at particular risk on holiday weekends.

Risk factors for teens on the road during holiday weekends include:
-Due to their limited driving experience, teens often have difficulty handling emergency situations; for example, they might try to pass a driver who keeps drifting into their lane.
-Teens may have trouble recognizing when other drivers might be impaired and neglect to allow an adequate space cushion between their vehicle and the vehicles of those drivers. For example, they may tailgate a vehicle traveling far below the speed limit.
-Teens often have poor impulse control, which could lead them into playing traffic games with aggressive or impaired drivers, such as racing from one traffic light to another.
-Teens may be so preoccupied with their own driving that they fail to notice the actions of other drivers.

Here are some tips on how to recognize an impaired driver:
-their vehicle is straddling two lanes
-they have a close call, such as nearly hitting a parked car
-they make wide, clumsy turns
-they are traveling well below the speed limit (10 mph or more)
-they are following too closely
-they are braking erratically or stopping at inappropriate places (such as at an intersection with a green traffic light)
-their headlights aren’t on at night, or they leave their turn signal on for a prolonged time

Teens can use defensive driving techniques for safe holiday driving:
-Always wear your safety belt. This is your best defense against impaired drivers.
-Obey the speed limit. Driving too fast means you have less space to respond to hazards.
-Avoid being distracted from watching the road by noisy passengers, loud music, or using a cell phone.
-Maintain an adequate space cushion on all sides between your vehicle and other vehicles. If you notice someone driving erratically, increase your space cushion.
-Observe the behavior of other drivers, but keep your eyes moving; don’t get so distracted that you miss another hazard.

Teen drivers can report possible impaired drivers to local law enforcement, but parents should make sure their teens understand that they must pull off the road and stop before using a cell phone.