In the United States, it’s relatively easy to take driver’s education classes, get a driver’s license and then never look back. Safe driving expert and Governors Highway Safety Association consultant Pam Fischer offers tips on what new and old drivers alike can do to implement safer driving habits:
1. Keep up your education
Once a license is attained, there’s no requirement for continued education. But Fischer says taking initiative to continue education can serve as an important and necessary refresher. “This is a life-long process, and there absolutely should be opportunities and more focus on people continuing to get educated. Cars have changed, driving has changed and the risks have expanded to many cases.”
2. Make use of driver improvement programs
The National Safety Council, AARP and AAA all offer driver improvement programs. While there is typically a cost associated with these, there are also usually incentives, such as having points lowered or removed from a license or a discount on insurance. Plus, the classes are often only a day or can be taken online.
3. Stay engaged as parents
Even though every state has a graduated drivers licensing program, teaching responsible driving habits and how to assess situations is often left to the parents of teen drivers. Fischer recommends that parents become actively engaged in the process. She pulls from her own experience with her son where she asked the instructor, “Can you help me? Give me coaching tips. Help me know what I need to be focused on and what I can do to guide him, to correct him, to move him forward.”
4. Utilize online tools
There are many online outlets that parents can take advantage of to aid their teen drivers: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Drive it Home, the National Safety Council, the Ford Driving Skills for Life program and AAA all have resources.
5. Keep tabs on elderly family members
When it comes to older drivers, Fischer recommends that families inspect their elderly family members’ cars and observe driving habits. “The most important thing of all is to continue to talk with [them], monitor and start thinking ahead of time before something happens — or before you need to think about taking away the keys, if that becomes a necessity.”
6. Encourage programs for older drivers
AARP, AAA and the American Occupational Therapy Association work in accordance to provide CarFit, a program where technicians survey elderly drivers’ cars and run through a checklist to ensure everything is properly situated. They check mirrors, steering wheel placement and review car safety features with drivers.
7. Don’t forget to assess yourself
Fischer notes that most people assume they’re safe drivers without assessing their own potentially dangerous habits. Breaking behavioral habits are tough, but worthwhile. “The main message is if we’re going to be safe out there on the road, we have got to start with ourselves and examine our own behaviors with whatever mode of transport we use — that includes people on bikes and people on foot. We’re in this together. Let’s look inward [and] focus on what we can do.”