This is an interesting article about how to train teenagers to be well driver. I copied it from http://www.nytimes.com.


New Lessons to Pave a Road to Safety

Teenagers are notoriously bad drivers, accounting for 10 times as many crashes as middle-aged ones. But short of keeping them off the road entirely, is there a way to make their driving safer — for them and for the rest of us?

New research suggests that there is. A nationally representative sample of more than 800 crashes involving teenage drivers shows that almost two-thirds were due not to reckless behavior like speeding or joyriding but to three novice driving mistakes: failing to scan the road, misjudging driving conditions, and becoming distracted.

Focusing on these three common mistakes could go a long way in improving teenage driving and reducing fatalities, said an author of the report, Dr. Dennis Durbin, co-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (The findings, from the children’s hospital and State Farm Insurance, were published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.)

“The question is, What should we be doing with teens during that learning phase that can produce a better driver?” Dr. Durbin said in an interview. “We want to create programs that can help parents more intentionally teach these kinds of skills.”

Since the mid-1990s most states have adopted tougher teenage driving laws, with graduated permit programs that delay full licensing until new drivers are older and have more supervised experience. Studies of traffic fatalities and teenage driving accidents show that the most effective restrictions include delaying learning permits until age 16 and requiring at least six months of instruction before a driver’s test. (Many states still issue permits as young as 14 or 15.)

Other rules include requiring 40 to 50 hours of parent-supervised instruction before a license is given, and delaying full licensure until age 18, which means no driving after 10 p.m. and no teenage passengers. One state, New Jersey, requires novice drivers under 21 to display a new-driver decal until they obtain a full-privilege license.

Over all, the tougher laws are credited with a 30 percent drop in teenage highway fatalities. Even so, teenagers have the highest crash risk of any age group and account for four times as many traffic fatalities as adults. Dr. Durbin says it’s important to use the extended permitting period to help teenagers improve their driving skills.

Twenty-one percent of teenagers’ crashes, the new study shows, are due to scanning mistakes — failing to scan the road ahead and to check mirrors regularly to look for potential risks behind and to the sides. Other mistakes in this category include misjudging the speed of an oncoming car while making a left turn, and failing to anticipate that a parked truck can block the view of an intersection.

“Teenagers keep a tunnel vision right off the hood of the car,” Dr. Durbin said. “They think all they need to do is look straight ahead, but they don’t realize the need to be scanning back and forth so they always know where their car is in space.”

Most experienced drivers do this automatically, so as parents they may not focus on it when instructing their young drivers. To help build scanning skills and help learners expand their vision beyond the hood, Dr. Durbin suggests quizzing them about the surroundings. Ask questions like “What color is the car three cars ahead of you?” or “What color jacket is the person on the sidewalk wearing?”

Another 21 percent of the crashes arise from misjudging road conditions. The young driver may not be speeding, but fails to slow down at a curve or in slippery conditions.

The problem is that many parents don’t let teenagers drive when road conditions are poor. Instead, they should use poor weather as an opportunity to supervise, giving their new driver experience on wet or icy roads or during a nighttime rainstorm.

Another 20 percent of crashes are due to driver distraction — not necessarily from a cellphone, but usually from another passenger in the car.

One way to address all of these issues is “narrative driving,” in which the adult drives while giving a teenage passenger a play-by-play. Point out examples of unsafe driving, explain why you are changing lanes or slowing down, announce when you are checking the mirrors, and explain how you are reacting to information. Show the prospective driver how you deal with distractions like a disruptive child in the back seat without taking your eyes off the road.

“It’s helpful to talk out loud about what you’re seeing and doing,” Dr. Durbin said. “It sensitizes your teen to the fact that there is a lot more going on up here in the front seat than he thought there was.”

Other new research suggests that parents need to be aware whether their teenagers are getting enough sleep. Just last week, The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that those who started school earlier in the morning had higher crash rates.

The findings come from a comparison of crash data from Virginia Beach, where high school classes began around 7:20 a.m., and the neighboring town of Chesapeake, where they started around 8:30. The weekday crash rate for 16-to-18-year-olds was about 41 percent higher in Virginia Beach. Although more study is needed to explain the reasons for the difference, the data do suggest that sleep deficits may be playing a role.

“If a parent knows that a son or daughter has been up to 12:30 and has to be up at 6 in the morning, maybe that’s a morning that they don’t drive to school,” said the lead author, Dr. Robert D. Vorona, an associate professor of sleep medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “Teens are not good drivers, and anything we can do to hopefully make things safer for them and for us is worthwhile. We’re all sharing the road with them.”