The top 10 teen driving mistakes

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Teens behind the wheel can make any parent nervous, not to mention other drivers on the road.

"There are a number of factors that lead to an increase in accidents for teen drivers, including inexperience, dealing with emergency situations, distracted driving and the inclination to show off for friends," said Gary Tsifrin, founder of, a leading drivers education resource and solution., in conjunction with, recently identified the 10 most common mistakes teen drivers make:

Being distracted: Cell phones, CDs, food and even text messages can pose serious distractions. In some cases, drivers will even text message their backseat passengers. Distracted driving contributes to 80 percent of collisions.

Taking too many risks: Actions like ignoring traffic signals or school zone signs and changing lanes without checking blind spots are all considered "risky behavior." The difference between risky behavior and distracted driving is that risky behavior is deliberate, while distracted driving is often the result of ignorance.

Speeding: Most drivers occasionally speed, but teens do so because they don't have a good sense of how a car's speed can affect their response time. On average, teens drive faster than all other drivers. They will exceed speeds on residential roads that they interpret as empty because they haven't had any close calls there.

Overcrowding the car: Teens frequently overcrowd their cars, cramming five or six into a car meant to seat four or five. Worse yet, the extra passengers often result in teens driving more aggressively. The distractions of carrying too many passengers also can have serious consequences.

Driving under the influence: When teens drink and drive, they're even less likely to practice safe habits, such as seat belt usage. Of the 15- to 20-year-olds killed after drinking and driving in 2003, 74 percent were unrestrained, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because teenagers are too young to drink legally, they're also less likely to call parents to get them when they shouldn't drive.

Following too closely: Maintaining a proper following distance is a critical step in preventing accidents. At 60 mph, a typical car needs between 120 and 140 feet to reach a full stop. Most SUVs require an extra five to 10 feet on top of that. Consider that 60 mph translates to 88 feet per second and it's easy to see why maintaining proper following distance is critical in preventing accidents.

Going unbuckled: Approximately 21 percent of young drivers do not wear their seat belts regularly. Many young drivers have a sense of invincibility that also factors into teen speeding. Fortunately, many cars today have seat belt reminders that flash warning lights or chime until belts are secured. Call them annoying, but they help keep occupants buckled.

Not being able to handle emergencies: Knowing how to avoid an accident comes with driving experience. Young drivers can only learn so much in the classroom, which leaves learning maneuvers like straightening out a skid or how to apply the brakes correctly to real-world experience. Speeding and distracted driving only make things worse.

Driving drowsy: Drowsy driving affects an unlikely group: the so-called "good kids." That means straight-A students or those with a full plate of extracurricular activities. Overachievers have a lot of pressure and often don't think, "I'm too tired to drive."

Choosing the wrong car and not maintaining it: Too often, a combination of tight budgets and high style leads teens to pass up important safety features for larger engines and flashy accessories. A teen or novice driver will opt for a cool-looking sports car rather than a safer choice. Then, if they sink all their money into it, they might be remiss in maintaining it.

With all this in mind, has listed several new-car recommenda-tions for teen drivers based on a variety of criteria, including safety, price and size .

Story provided by StatePoint.