Teaching Young Drivers the Rules of the Road

By Justin Bell

Sixteen-year old Cameron Faith is a busy teen with a hectic schedule. When he’s not in high school or studying at home, he’s playing hockey or hanging out with friends. He’s pretty much your typical teen growing up. This summer, he took once step closer to independence when he got his driver’s licence.

Rather than go through traditional classroom instruction, Faith took AMA’s Online New Driver Program, a 15-hour online course that allows students to learn from the comfort of their own home. He learned the basic rules of the road from home at his own pace, before moving onto in-car lessons. “At the time, I was really busy so the ability to start and stop whenever I needed to helped,” says Faith. He was able to spend more time studying things that he didn’t understand, stop at any point and pick up where he left off. By his own admission, Faith says he sometimes zones out in a classroom, but the online course allowed him to focus on the material better.

After completing 10 hours of in-car lessons with AMA, Faith took his test and passed on his first try. “My driving instructor commented on my proficiency behind the wheel. He said I was one of the best students he’d ever seen.” Faith says he knew all the rules—how to make a right turn correctly, proper following distances, speed zones, etc.

His first outing with his new licence? Driving his sister to their neighborhood convenience store to grab an iced tea. Now, he’s driving up to 10 hours a week to and from hockey practices, and the occasional small family errand. “I get a bit nervous driving in unfamiliar areas or passing through construction zones.”

Although he’s a confident driver, Faith realizes that he still needs a lot of experience before he’s 100 percent comfortable on the road. “I’m still new at this.”

It’s easy to misjudge your driving ability when you’re new to the wheel and inexperienced. But teens are particularly at risk of being involved in a motor vehicle collision for these three reasons.

They lack experience: Teens have a more significant learning curve than older new drivers. Aside from inexperience operating a vehicle and recognizing hazards, teens are still developing judgment and capacity for reasoning and decision-making. Talk to your teen about driving and set ground-rules about speeding, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, plus peer pressure.

They don’t buckle up: It should be no surprise to you that once your teen gets his or her driver’s licence, they’ll want to drive to their favourite hangouts with friends. Teach drivers to avoid the temptation of cramming the car with passengers. By law, every passenger must have a seat belt, including those in the back seat. According to a U.S. study, more than 58 percent of teen drivers killed in automobile crashes were not wearing a seat belt at the time.

They are prone to distraction: More than three-quarters of all teens own cellphones and on average, they use their phone 60 times a day to text, Snapchat, play games and listen to music. Before your teen develops bad driving habits later, teach them now that cellphone use while driving is a no-no. Even operating a phone hands-free is dangerous and takes your attention away from the roads. Studies show that motorists using their phone are four times more likely to be involved in a collision.