Everyone makes mistakes. We’re human, after all! Some mistakes, however, are more costly than others. Sometimes one mistake is the difference between life and death. It’s morbid, but the truth is car crashes are the leading cause of death to people age 15 to age 20. Many of these collisions are caused by human error, meaning they could have been avoided by drivers using defensive driving strategies. It’s important for new drivers especially to understand common mistakes and how to avoid them because new drivers are statistically more likely to cause a collision than older, more experienced drivers.
The most recent data found 1,603 young drivers (i.e., drivers age 15 to age 210) died in traffic collisions in 2019, with another 205,000 young drivers injured in collisions. Forty-six percent of the young drivers who died weren’t wearing seat belts.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common new driver mistakes and how to avoid them.
The data from 2019 shows that more young drivers were speeding at the time of their fatal crashes than any other age group, other than drivers with a female identifier on their license age 21 to age 24.
Young drivers don’t have as much driving experience to understand the level of risk they’re facing in certain conditions on the road. They tend to think collisions happen to "other people," but would never happen to them. Young drivers may know all of the technical skills of driving a vehicle and understand traffic laws, but it takes a while to develop the skill set to accurately evaluate the level of risk they’re taking while driving.
Speeding is worth it because it saves time, right? Here’s an example for you: Imagine you’re running late for school. The school is five miles away, and the speed limit is 45 mph. In order to save time, you decide to speed. Now your speed is 55 mph. How much time will you save?
By going 10 mph over the speed limit in this scenario, you’ll save about 1.21 minutes on your drive to school. You’ll also double your risk for a collision, not to mention the speeding ticket you’d earn. Is it worth getting to your destination about a minute earlier? No.
Here are some ways young drivers can avoid speeding:
- Pay attention to posted speed limits. It may sound obvious, but the driver’s excuse for speeding is often that they didn’t know the speed limit. That’s not a valid excuse.
- Take a quick glance at your speedometer regularly. It’s easy for a new driver to lose track of their speed if they’re not paying enough attention to it.
- Slow down in poor conditions. Did you know you can be ticketed for driving under the speed limit in certain situations? The posted speed limit is the maximum speed you can drive under good conditions. In adverse conditions (e.g., snow, rain, heavy winds, traffic), you’ll need to drive under the posted speed limit in order to stay safe.
It’s pretty easy to avoid speeding if you want to stay safe.
Drinking While Driving
The legal drinking age is 21 years old in the US, so it shouldn’t be a problem for young drivers, right? Unfortunately, alcohol use is another area where young drivers underestimate the level of risk involved when combined with driving.
In the US, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher (with the exclusion of Utah where the threshold is .05 g/dL). Twenty-four percent of the young drivers who died in collisions in 2019 had a BAC of .01 g/dL or above. Twenty percent of young drivers killed had a BAC of .08 g/dL or above. Of the young drinking drivers who were killed, 60% weren’t wearing seat belts. These deaths were unnecessary.
Here are some of the driving skills that are negatively affected by alcohol:
- Judgment and reasoning
- Awareness and alertness
- Physical condition
- Reaction time
Deciding to drive should only happen when the person’s ability and judgment isn’t impaired by alcohol or other drugs. Sometimes, young drivers feel pressured by their peers to drink or use other drugs. If you’re a new driver easily swayed by peer pressure, avoid situations where you know your friends will be drinking when you don’t want to join in.
Some alternatives to drinking and driving are:
- Designate a sober driver who won’t drink or use other drugs that day so they can safely drive everyone home.
- Call an Uber, or a trusted friend or family member to pick you up.
- If you’re at a party, consider sleeping over rather than driving home at night when you’re impaired.
- Decide not to drink or use other drugs while out when you know you’re not going to be able to get home safely.
Never get in the car with a driver who’s intoxicated, and if you can, urge them not to drive while intoxicated, either.
Not Paying Attention in Driver’s Ed
The final mistake new drivers make that we’ll cover is a major one: not paying attention in driver’s education class. We get it; sitting in a classroom listening to someone talk about driving may not be the most enticing thing. It can be difficult to pay attention to lectures in a classroom setting.
Driver’s education is incredibly important, and it doesn’t have to be boring! Taking an a href="https://www.safe2drive.com/driver-education" target="blank">online driver’s education class is more convenient than sitting in a classroom learning about defensive driving skills and traffic laws. Taking an online driver’s ed course like ours here at Safe2Drive allows you to learn from the comfort of your own bedroom, or anywhere you have access to the internet.
We believe in the importance of driver education courses, and we know it’s easier to retain information when it’s presented in multiple modalities (e.g., text, videos, animations, and games). Don’t make the mistake of taking a driver’s education course in an environment where you might not be best equipped to retain any of the crucial information.