Powerful winter storms this year have made winter driving top of mind for many people. Driving in snow or on icy roads can be hazardous and scary for any driver, especially younger drivers who don’t have years of experience. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 900 people are killed and 76,000 people are injured every year in vehicle crashes due to snowfall or icy conditions.
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, especially as driving conditions deteriorate. Parents are key influencers when it comes to teens’ behaviors behind the wheel. Below are tips to help parents encourage safe driving during the winter months.
- Skid control. If your teen’s car starts to skid due to a slick road, teach them to take their foot off the gas; don’t brake immediately as it will continue the skid; let the wheels roll and keep both hands on the wheel; look in the direction they want to go and then steer there. Once the vehicle slows, apply the brakes gently to regain control.
- Keep the gas tank close to full. Before leaving, make sure the gas tank is close to full and your teen has an emergency kit and mobile phone charger in the car, in case they get stuck out on the road.
- Keep a larger distance between cars. The normal three to four seconds between cars in dry conditions should be increased to eight to 10 seconds in inclement weather.
- Have a quality set of windshield wipers. Make sure your teen has a quality set of windshield wiper blades on the car they will be driving. This is important year-round, of course, but good wipers are the best defense against snow. Also, make sure to completely fill the windshield wash reservoir to allow for a clean windshield while driving. If the wipers leave streaks during fall rains, be sure to change the blades before those drops turn to flakes.
- Practice the ABS (anti-lock brake) system: In a safe environment, while driving in a straight line and at a slow speed, when there are no other cars around, have your teen hold the brake down hard and bring the car to a complete stop. This will allow them to feel how the ABS brakes work. It is always better to have practice before they are needed in an emergency.
- Be sure to keep a snow brush and scraper in the car. Ensure your teen has a snow brush and a scraper at all times and teach them how to clean the front, back and side windows. Be sure to remind them that the headlights must be clean, as well. Thick snow needs to be removed from the hood, roof and trunk, too.
Practicing these tips and being particularly aware of your surroundings while out on the road can keep teen drivers safe and fully prepared for anything they may encounter while driving.
— Mike Sample is a lead driving safety expert, course director and technical consultant at Liberty Mutual Insurance specializing in management practices to reduce crash and injury occurrence.
Teen Driving Clinics in Ohio
Your teen can learn winter driving tips and defensive driving techniques from certified instructors at several area driving clinics geared specifically for their age group. These aren’t the typical driver’s ed courses; they are action-packed sessions that give teens hands-on practice on specially-designed courses. Many are taught by current and former law enforcement officers, race car drivers and other highly trained professionals. Check out the following options available in Ohio:
DriveTeam Winter Skills Clinic, Cuyahoga Falls
The four-hour, hands-on driving class features the company’s SkidCar and SkidVan. Students will experience skid avoidance and control, traction control, accident avoidance, and bad weather braking techniques. Cost ranges from $125-$249. driveteam.com/teen-winter
Honda Teen Defensive Driving Program, Lexington
In this six-hour program, students practice collision recovery techniques, loss of control recovery skills, bad weather maneuvers through emergency lane change, wet braking, and skid car drills. The program takes place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and includes a classroom portion and lunch. Standard course pricing is $375. midohio.com/school
Tire Rack Street Survival, Boardman
This day-long, hands-on program teaches teens to control their car in unpredictable situations based on its handling limits, master the application of driving physics using their car, and learn how to make good driving decisions and react more quickly. The traveling program visits locations across the country, and will make a stop at Boardman Park on April 29. Cost is $95. streetsurvival.org
Better Ohio Teen Drivers, Hebron
This seven-hour program at National Trail Raceway features a classroom session, followed by demonstrations and four behind-the-wheel driving drills on a closed course. Drills include slalom, wet braking/steering, emergency lane change, and spin avoidance. Instructors are retired Ohio State Highway Patrolmen, current and former sports car racers and current advanced driving program instructors. Cost is $350. betterohioteendrivers.org