Perspectives: Driving tips to keep students vigilant on the road to school

Inexperience behind the wheel puts many teen drivers at a disadvantage on the road, whether they’re headed for a local restaurant during their school’s open lunch hour, or just cruising area streets and highways.

Driving instructors like Dolores Holiday with Devola’s Pioneer Driving School try to help their young students gain some of that road experience before they obtain their drivers licenses.

“For example, we encourage parents to let their kids drive on all types of roads, including gravel roadways or major highways,” she said, noting parents often only allow their teens to practice driving on neighborhood side streets or parking lots.

Holiday said it’s better for young drivers to learn how to handle a vehicle on all kinds of roadways while they have their learners permits and still must have an experienced adult driver riding in the car with them.

Over-confidence can be another issue for younger drivers, she said.

“They often assume they’ll always have everything under control,” Holiday said. “But we have students that I know will probably be involved in a crash within their first six months on the road because they’re too over confident about their driving abilities.”

That attitude can cause teens to take risks on the road and make poor decisions that may endanger themselves or other drivers.

In the wake of a two-car crash that sent four Marietta High School students to the hospital during their open lunch period last week, Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite said such accidents may be prevented if young drivers take a few precautions.

“Students need to allow plenty of time for travel,” he said. “And they don’t have to drive (as fast as) the speed limit. Stay alert and use caution.”

Waite said seatbelts are important for both driver and all passengers in the vehicle, and he warned that a car loaded with chatting students can be a major distraction to teen drivers.

“Also, leave lunch early enough to get back to class on time without rushing,” he said.

Holiday said wearing a seatbelt is the first and foremost lesson for her student drivers, and she agreed that teens are prone to distractions.

“You want to eliminate as many as possible by turning off cell phones or other devices,” she said, adding that new drivers under the age of 18 should not have more than one passenger in the car which also helps prevent distraction.

“And they should not be driving at the posted speed limit,” Holiday said. “Those limits are set for maximum road conditions, which rarely exist, so they should always drive below the posted limit.”