Winter driving safety tips for teens

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What parents can do to help keep their young driver safe on snowy roads

Consumers throughout much of the East Coast are dealing with harsh winter weather, which can make road conditions hazardous and scary -- especially for younger drivers.

Nearly 900 people are killed and 76,000 people are injured every year in vehicle crashes due to snowfall or icy conditions, and the risk of a weather-related crash may be even higher for teens due to their limited driving experience and tendency to engage in distracting activities behind the wheel.

A recent study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) found that 71 percent of high school seniors use their phone while driving, putting them at greater risk of an accident or near miss.

Prepare your vehicle

There are several steps parents can take to help ensure teen drivers stay safe on the road. Preparing your vehicle for snowy and icy roads is a crucial first step, says Mike Sample, lead driving safety expert and technical consultant at Liberty Mutual Insurance.

“When winter weather starts rolling in, there are a number of things that drivers, especially teen drivers, can do to help prep their vehicle for snowy and icy roads,” Sample told ConsumerAffairs.

“Before leaving, make sure the gas tank is close to full and you have an emergency kit and mobile phone charger in your car, in case you get stuck out on the road.”

Your emergency kit should contain supplies that will help in the event that you get stranded in a blizzard or have car trouble. Stock your kit with blankets, coats, hats, flashlight, emergency flares, water, and nonperishable food items.

He also recommends investing in a quality set of windshield wiper blades, noting that “they are your best defense against snow.” Having a clear window is necessary in order to see cars, people, and other obstacles in front of your car.

Winter driving tips

Parents should also make sure teens know how to drive safely in hazardous winter weather conditions. Here are some topics to cover before they hit the road:

  • Turn into the slide. Make sure teens know how to regain control of the car if it begins to slide in the snow, by taking their foot off the gas, keeping both hands on the wheel, looking where they want to go, and then steering there.

  • Avoid distractions. Remind young drivers of the importance of devoting their full attention to driving, especially in snowy or icy conditions. “Tell them to turn their music off to help them concentrate and remind them that the driving rules in place for dry roads apply to snowy ones too, so put that phone away and slow your driving down to avoid an accident.”

  • Increase stopping distance. Remind teens that stopping the vehicle will take longer in snowy conditions, so keep a following distance interval between you and cars ahead of eight to 10 seconds.

  • Know when to pull over. Make sure young drivers know that there may be times when it’s safest to pull over. Freezing rain, black ice, and whiteout snowstorms are three conditions that experts say make driving conditions unsafe.   

“It’s important for parents of new teen drivers to share some winter driving tips and tricks, since many teens haven’t experienced these driving conditions before,” Sample said.

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