One of the most important aspects of safe driving is learning where to look, when to look and how to do it well. This week, we discuss a few different ways to teach your teen to improve their observation skills while driving.
Looking ahead, to the sides, and behind the vehicle is the key to being in tune with other traffic and in control of your driving situation. It’s important to remind your new driver to observe all sides of the vehicle — front, rear, left and right — and to keep an eye on dashboard instruments like the speedometer, to gather all the information necessary to make good driving decisions.
Follow our weekly summer series on teaching your teen how to drive — sharing these important driving tips in small doses may help you and your teen cover more ground.
Looking Ahead While Driving
Try to have your teen look far ahead at all times. Driving in town requires observing up to a block ahead. The ability to glance frequently in both the inside and outside mirrors and look over their shoulder before turning or changing lanes will help your new driver observe behind and to the sides of the vehicle as well as the road ahead.
Your Role as Driving Instructor
To improve observation skills, ask your teen to tell you as soon as they notice something, such as a traffic light, stop sign, or intersection. You can also ask your new driver to point out areas where their vision might be restricted, such as hill crests and blind intersections.
By asking if there is a vehicle following them, you can better understand if they are aware of what’s happening behind the vehicle.
Common Problems & Solutions
- Staring straight ahead for a long time can be a sign that your inexperienced driver is not scanning to the sides or checking the mirrors and instruments enough.
- Going through intersections without slowing can also mean that they have not been observing properly.
- Drifting in the lane is another sign that they may not be paying attention.
Tell your new driver that it’s important not to become mesmerized by the road. They should be prepared to react to anything that could cross or end up in your driving path. Encourage your teen to look beyond the vehicle ahead and notice brake lights in any lane as a sign that traffic is slowing — this means they may have to slow down too.
When driving around parked cars, teach your child to watch out for exhaust, front wheels turned toward the road, a driver behind the wheel, turn signals, and brake lights as a sign that a vehicle may pull out suddenly.
Remind your teen to observe all sides of the vehicle as well as the instrument panel in order to have all the information necessary to make safe driving decisions.
Places to Practice Driving
Quiet residential streets are great places to start observing all sides of your vehicle. Make sure your teen looks out for special hazards such as vehicles that appear to be parked, vehicles pulling out of driveways, children playing, bicyclists or pedestrians.
As you work your way up to busier roads with higher speeds and heaver traffic, intersections will require scanning from side to side. Looking all around the vehicle will be critical.
Next week’s lesson: Following In Traffic