Common issues with new drivers and how to correct them
New drivers may…
Give directions calmly, in as few words and as early as possible. Choose parking lots and wide roads with minimal traffic at low volume driving times, then work up to more complex and congested situations.
Be overly confident.
Some new drivers think they have driving mastered because they are comfortable with driving other types of vehicles (ATVs, golf carts, etc.). However, these drivers make mistakes just as easily as more timid drivers. Don’t let the new driver’s confidence create a false illusion that they are ready to handle the many possible situations on the road.
Be able to concentrate only on their own car and actions.
Therefore, you must be alert for other drivers’ actions and how those actions could impact your teen’s driving situation. Mentally drive the route with your teen, checking activity in front and behind you.
Not be able to navigate by street names, even to places they visit routinely.
When giving directions, be as concise and clear as possible, i.e. “At the next corner, turn right.” or “After you stop at the stop sign, we will go straight.” Don’t worry about identifying road names in the beginning.
Not look far enough down the road to anticipate upcoming situations.
Help them process the changing scenario by calmly verbalizing what is coming up, “Be aware that traffic may enter our lane from the left.” or “The light ahead is green but may soon turn yellow.” Remind your teen to continually raise their gaze to the horizon so they can see as far ahead as possible and have time to plan and react to upcoming situations.
Look everywhere, including at activity on the side of the road.
As is true for everyone, the car will go wherever the driver is looking. Reinforce the importance of keeping eyes on the center of the lane of travel.
Hesitate and linger in situations that are potentially dangerous such as when turning from a side road onto a main thoroughfare.
While it is critical to ensure that the path the driver intends to travel is clear, the traffic situation can change very quickly. Therefore it is crucial to act quickly once it has been determined that there is sufficient opportunity to proceed.
Drive too close to the curb.
Often this situation arises from the new driver focusing on things on the side of the road that they do not want to hit (mailboxes, shrubs, etc.). Because they are looking at these things, they unknowingly drive closer to them. If this happens, direct the teen to look toward the center of the divided lane instead. Also, keep in mind that sitting in the front passenger seat makes things on the side of the road seem closer than you are accustomed to while sitting in the driver’s seat.
Stop and start abruptly.
This is a matter of practice. Smooth acceleration and deceleration can only be achieved when the student is calm and unhurried. If the student does not improve after frequent attempts, practice in a less intense driving location such as a parking lot or residential area.
“Fight” the wheel, jerking it back and forth in an attempt to keep the car on the road.
This “overcorrecting” issue is a sign of stress and can be resolved by the licensed driver holding the wheel gently at the 6:00 position while the student drives. Holding the wheel while guiding the car smoothly demonstrates how little movement is required to keep the car on the road and decreases stress for the student. Release the wheel after the student understands the difference in steering strategy.
Follow other cars too closely.
This habit reflects an inability to judge the relationship between speed and distance. As a rule, there should be a minimum of 1 car length of space cushion for every 10 mph of speed. However, for speeds over 35 mph, increase the distance to 2 car lengths for every 10 mph of speed. Always round up in speed and distance, i.e. 55 mph = 11 car lengths separation.
Take curves and turns too fast.
Remind the teen that a good rule of thumb is to always brake before a curve and accelerate out of the curve.
Drive too fast for conditions.
Students who make this mistake are generally concentrating on other issues (lane position, side traffic) and are not processing the surrounding or changing situation. Help them by using short, positive commands, i.e. “Ease up on the accelerator” and by pointing out conditions that indicate a necessary change in speed, “I see brake lights ahead.”
Distractions such as friends in other cars or a ringing cell phone can be too tempting for a teen to ignore. Once the teen has mastered driving basics, have him or her provide a running narrative of the upcoming road situation. “There is a truck entering the road from the right. The car in front of me will have to slow down to allow the truck to merge.” This forces the teen to concentrate on driving, not on distractions.