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Danger on the Back Roads: Is Your Teen Driving Safely?

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Two-lane country roads are more dangerous for teenagers than city streets and suburban lanes and it is important for them to learn how to properly navigate these and other diverse environments. Roughly 57% of teenage driving fatalities occur on rural, two-lane roads which are typically narrow and wind themselves over hills and through forests that present unique dangers and driving challenges. Teaching teens to traverse these dangerous roads is essential for keeping them safe.

Preparing Teenagers for the Bumps in the Road

Teenagers should be taught how to drive on different road surfaces including asphalt, concrete, dirt, and gravel. Teenagers can encounter each of these once they leave the relatively uniform road conditions in the city. Teens should understand how speed, moisture, and other factors influence how the vehicle interacts with the road and how these factors need to be accounted for when turning, braking, and maneuvering.

Teenagers driving on these rural roads that are involved in fatal accidents are often killed by driving too fast for conditions/surfaces, losing control while turning or slowing down, or by obstructions in the roadway including fallen trees, parked vehicles, or animals. Teen drivers are also killed by poor decisions which can include driving as if they are the only vehicle on the road, losing focus and becoming distracted, driving while drunk or drowsy, etc. One of the most dangerous decisions teen drivers make is to pass slower moving vehicles on two-lane roads without allowing for sufficient time and distance between their vehicle and oncoming traffic, or by undertaking this potentially dangerous maneuver in a no passing zone.   

Practice Makes Perfect

Parents should facilitate as much practice time on rural roads with their teenagers as possible. This practice should include as many different environmental factors as possible including rain, snow, ice, low-light, night, etc. conditions. This helps prepare young drivers to handle these conditions when it is time for them to head out on their own. Teenagers should also be taught how to seek help in rural road areas and how to equip their vehicle with emergency roadside kits, change tires, etc. Having these skills and experience is the key to keeping teenage drivers safe and keeping them out of injury or fatality causing automobile accidents in Illinois.  

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