(BPT) – Once a newly licensed teen gets behind the wheel for the first time without a parent or guardian, the taste of freedom is exhilarating.
But a teenager’s lack of behind-the-wheel experience puts them at greater risk of getting into an accident. Add factors like passengers, loud music and stress, and the situation can quickly turn dire. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, with one in three teen deaths caused by vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To help teens navigate into this new responsibility safely, there are lots of resources out there to help them. For example, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and The UPS Foundation have come together to create the UPS Road Code program, which is available in 57 Boys & Girls Clubs across 46 U.S. cities. This is a free program that educates teens on safe driving principles and best practices for road safety.
Taught by UPS employees who volunteer their time, the program offers classroom instruction along with practice time behind the wheel of a virtual driving simulator. The UPS instructors share insights they have learned through the company’s in-depth defensive driving training.
“The thing that has really hit home for me is the fact that driving a car is a huge responsibility,” said CeCe McNeal, the national teen ambassador, east region, for the UPS Road Code program.
The program’s national teen ambassador, west region, Jaylen Vinson added, “Whenever I get into the car, before I turn the key, I remind myself that I’m in control of the car and I’m in charge of the choices I make on the road.”
Whether you have a teen in your life who needs some guidance, or you would like some reminders of how to be more mindful while on the road, here are some tips and insights that McNeal and Vinson learned during the course that can help drivers of all ages avoid risky behavior on the road.
Delete Distractions: If your attention is on something other than driving — texting, eating, turning the radio dial, talking to a passenger or on the phone — you’re putting yourself at greater risk of getting into a crash. And with every crash, you also risk the lives of your fellow passengers and everyone else out on the road.
Mind the Speed: Sometimes we don’t pay attention to the speed limit, which can lead to harmful consequences very fast. Increased speed can result in an expensive traffic ticket, along with raised insurance rates. But, most importantly, speeding reduces your time to react to hazards and increases your likelihood of getting into a dangerous collision.
Plan for the Weather: Get into the habit of checking the weather before you plan your trip. Driving in heavy rain, snow and ice can be stressful and slippery for any driver. So, when the conditions are bad and you have to head out, give yourself extra time. And if you’re still running behind schedule, just remember, it’s always better to be late than end up in a serious crash because you are rushing.
Never Drive While Impaired: Alcohol and other substances can impair your vision and reaction time, which can lead to a greater likelihood of being in a fatal crash. In fact, in 2016 there were 10,497 people in the United States killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes and an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality happens every 50 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driving under the influence is never worth the risk.
Look and Think Ahead: One key to being a good driver is staying focused on the road and what’s around you, so you can spot the hazards and respond to them immediately. Be aware of others sharing the road with you, including bicyclists and pedestrians, and leave enough space between you and the other cars to allow for reaction time. Scan the road ahead, especially intersections, while also remembering to check those rear and side-view mirrors regularly.
“If you don’t handle your car in a safe manner at all times, it can turn into a deadly weapon against others on the road, your passengers and yourself,” McNeal said. “Keeping these tips top of mind before getting behind the wheel can reduce the risks faced on the road and help to make the roads safer for us all.”