Friday, November 12, 2010

Mr. Nice Guy's Tips for Teen Driving Safety at Night

Because of decreased visibility and an increased risk of dozing off, driving at night can be quite dangerous. While experienced drivers often don’t think twice about the extra risks associated with driving at night, for inexperienced teen drivers, night-time driving can be quite dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken.
 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], fatality rates at night are three times higher than those during the day. In fact, driving between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. only accounts for 23 percent of all vehicle miles traveled yet it accounts for more than 50 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities for those over 16 years old. 
As your teen is learning to drive, you should take some time to make sure they understand the dangers of driving at night and are taking the proper steps to ensure a safe trip to and from home.
Here are ten tips for late-night driving.

1.    Check your vision
As the school year comes to an end, your teen probably has a lot more free-time to go to the optometrist. Whether they’ve always had perfect vision or wear contacts and/or glasses, a quick visit to your local eye doctor could diagnose any problems and give you the assurance you need, especially if you’ve noticed your teen squinting more.

2.    Prepare your vehicle
Before your teen heads out, you should check and clean the headlights and taillights and remove any dirt or smudges from the windows and mirrors. Dirt and finger prints on the windows and mirrors can cause glares at night. If it’s been a while since your last safety inspection, you should also make sure your headlights are properly aligned because mis-aligned headlights can blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road. If your teen plans on using their car during college, you can consider anti-reflective coating which can help reduce glare at night. You can also purchase anti-reflective coated glasses.

3.    Use your lights courteously
Although you should always turn on your headlights one hour before sunset you should keep you headlights on low beams if you are following a vehicle or if you see an oncoming vehicle on the other side of the road. This way, you can avoid blinding other drivers with your lights. You should also use low beams during heavy fog because high beams can reduce your ability to see and may blind other drivers. If you see an oncoming vehicle with its high beams on, you can avoid glare by watching the right edge of the road and using it as a steering guide.

4.    Slow down and stay back
While you should never speed or tailgate cars, doing so at night is even more dangerous because the lack of light makes it more difficult for you to gauge depth perception. Also, because you peripheral vision is often compromised when it is dark, you will need more time to react to unexpected situations

5.    Limit the number of passengers
Studies have shown that 59 percent of teenage passenger deaths occur in vehicles driven by another teenager and fatal crashes involving young drivers are much more likely to occur when other teenagers are in the car.  While these figures are grim, they make sense because teen drivers are more likely to get distracted by their friends and have less experience reacting to emergency situations on the road.  While many states have laws limiting the number of passengers a teen driver can have in his/her car, you should talk to your teen about limiting the number of teen passengers in their car to one or two people.

6.    Avoid distractions
Studies show that almost 80 percent of crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds of a crash and at 40 mph, a car can travel almost 180 feet within three seconds. Talk to your teen about keeping their eyes and mind on the road and hands on the steering wheel at all times. While music can make a ride more enjoyable, it should never take priority over driving. Visit to find some tips on avoiding distracted driving you can share with your teen.

7.    Sleep more
Because of decreased visibility and the increased risk of an accident, driving at night requires you to be completely alert and 100 percent focused on the road. Unfortunately, as it gets later into the night, drivers may find themselves dozing off behind the wheel, putting themselves and other drivers at risk for a fatal accident. Encourage your teen to get at seven to eight hours of sleep each night and consider providing them with some extra cash for a cab, just in case they are too tired to drive.

8.    Buckle up
According to the National Safety Commission, two-thirds of traffic fatalities at night involve drivers or passengers who were not wearing seat belts.  Currently, 30 states have primary seat belt laws, meaning you can be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt without another traffic offense taking place and 18 states have secondary seat belt laws. New Hampshire is the only state without a primary or secondary seat belt law for adults.

9.    Check your meds

Many over-the-counter and prescription medication can induce drowsiness or fatigue, so before taking them, check the warning labels and/or stickers.  If you still are not sure, ask your pharmacist. Often times, these medications can impair your driving ability and make staying awake behind the wheel even more difficult.

10.     Communicate
While you may not want to annoy your teen with constant phone calls, it is always a good idea to have your teen text or call you with an update of where they are and where they are going every one to two hours. This way, you have a general sense of where they are and who they are with and can react appropriately if needed. Although you may want to constantly check-in on your teen, showing a little restraint will show that you trust your teen enough to make responsible decisions.

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