How to Help Your Teen Become a Defensive Driver


Teaching teens to drive defensively 

Defensive teen driving can help to prevent crashes, but it’s important to understand the difference between defensive driving and driving aggressively. Driving defensively means the driver is completely focused on driving and driving safely. 

The first step in safe driving is preparedness. It’s important for teen drivers to learn how to respond to other cars and anticipate potential hazards. First-time drivers have no experience driving, so there is no frame of reference that defines “potential hazards” for them. Learning the fundamentals of driving defensively, and providing some framework around what to expect, can help ease their fear and anxiety. Being a safe driver is more than checking your mirrors and driving the speed limit. Teen drivers need education, guidance and counsel about the cues and clues that other drivers may be distracted or impaired while driving. Here are some tips to discuss with your teen driver:

Be Prepared, Know Your Exit

One of the best ways to be prepared for the road is to always be assessing a possible exit, in case someone else causes a crash or a near-crash. We can’t predict the behavior of other drivers, but we can learn how to respond in difference situations. Explain to your teen that 100% concentration on the road is very important. A safe driver has to keep their eyes on the road while checking rear view mirrors and side mirrors, and keeping an eye on the cars around them. For an experienced driver, these “tasks” can feel like reflexes; but for first-time drivers, the smallest distraction could be fatal. If the car to the right suddenly swerves into the driver’s lane, a safe driver has to be ready to safely react to avoid a collision. Thinking quickly to plan an escape, in the event of a crash,  requires some space to maneuver. If there is enough room between the driver and the car ahead, the driver will have a better chance of avoiding a situation. 

Respect the Road

Teenagers are known to be exuberant and spirited, so it’s important teach them to respect the road. People die in crashes every day. It’s an ugly truth – but the truth, nonetheless. Using cell phones, eating, putting on makeup, and other forms of distracted driving will immediately put the driver at risk.

Talk to your teen about being aware of road signage: speed limits, road issues, construction, weather conditions, cautions, etc… Not all drivers are good drivers. Not all drivers respect the road. Those are the drivers who cause crashes and put people’s safety at risk. 

Be Cautious of Other Drivers

Advise your teen driver to be cautious of their distance from the cars driving around them. Teach teenage drivers not to tailgate. Maintaining a proper following distance is crucial to driving safely. Leaving four-to-six seconds between them and the vehicle in front of them will provide the space needed in case of an emergency situation.  Tailgating could cause a crash – you never know what that driver in front of you will do. 

Paying attention to the road and concentrating on our surrounding is what being a defensive driver is all about. It means being ready for anything and not being aggressive.

So be sure to always be planning an exit, respect the road, and follow at a safe distance.

author avatar
Maria Wojtczak
Maria Wojtczak is Chief Operating Officer at DrivingMBA. She has extensive knowledge in teen brain development and has pioneered many techniques used to teach students at DrivingMBA. Her passion for teaching and saving teen lives has made her a leader in the driver training industry.


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