When you have young drivers in the home, it’s natural to worry about them during the winter seasons. Black ice, limited visibility, mechanical failures, snow banks, hidden potholes and curbs – the list of hazards goes on and on. You have good reasons to be worried!
However, many of us forget just how hazardous the spring can be for young drivers as well. Spring is the time when teens and college freshmen shake off the malaise and weariness of the winter and stretch their legs again. Their young, excited, full of energy, and ready to tackle the world. Normally those are all good qualities, but when it comes to being safe on the road, too much enthusiasm and too little care can be just as dangerous as any patch of black ice.
If your kids are hitting the road this spring, be sure to sit down and refresh them on some crucial safety tips.
Keep an eye out for cyclists and pedestrians
Nothing brings out the cycle-paths and weekend motorbikers faster than a nice warm spring season. Who can blame them after spending all winter gazing lovingly at their bikes gathering dust in the garage? Of course, this means drivers need to be especially diligent and on the look-out for these smaller, more vulnerable vehicles on the road.
Remind your young drivers about the one-meter rule and be sure they know to give bicyclists plenty of room whenever they pass them. It’s also important for drivers who may not be used to watching out for it to be extra aware of the threat of “dooring” a passing cyclist. Always check your side mirror and take a look before you swing your door open on anyone!
Of course, it’s not just bicyclists and motorbike enthusiasts who enjoy the warm weather. Joggers, dog walkers, and games of pick-up street hockey are all common sights in Ontario neighborhoods when the sun starts to shine. This means it’s all the more important to obey speed limits and practice good observation skills when on the road, especially in suburban areas.
You never know when a dog is going to dart into a street, if a jogger has their iPod turned up too loud to hear you coming, or if there are any kids playing around the corner. Make sure your teenaged drivers know that safety begins on your own home streets, not just on the highway or in commercial areas.
Know your road conditions
While ice and snow present obvious dangers, the spring has its own less than ideal road conditions to be careful of. Melting water, changing temperatures, and rain can wreak havoc on asphalt, causing new potholes to spring up every year. If you’re not watching the road, it’s very easy to drive right into one.
Gravel shoulders aren’t as safe as they look in the spring. Again, rain and melting water has a tendency to erode the shoulder and make it softer and spongier than you might expect. Gullies, pooling water, and slippery mud can all make the shoulder more of a trap than a refuge if you need to pull over. Make sure your young drivers know to carefully slow down and gradually pull into a shoulder with all due care.
There is also the matter of all that sand and salt used during the winter months to help improve traction. While salt and sand trucks are welcome sights when it’s 20 below and the roads are like hockey rinks, all those small granules are less helpful on smooth roads. Those tiny rocks can actually act like very tiny balls between your tires and the asphalt, degrading traction and making it easier to spin out. Think of them like a bag of very small marbles and your tires like Wile E. Coyote skidding off into the sunset. This is mostly a problem on rural roads that see less natural traffic to disperse the grains, so make sure your novice drivers know to be extra careful when turning down country roads.
The back roads are not your private racetrack
We all hope our teenagers know exactly how foolish and deadly street racing can be, but it never hurts to reinforce the idea. Even if they’re not “racing” per se, just using the back roads as an excuse to clear their engine’s throat and pick up a little speed, any kind of excessive speed or unsafe driving can have tragic consequences. Farm roads and side streets are never as empty as we think they are, and even 20/Kmph can make a big difference in your ability to stop before you hit a deer/tree/car, or slam right into it.
Just about every spring we hear some tragic story about a carload of teenagers out for a good night of aimless Ontario wandering getting a little too loose and flying off some dusty back road and into a ditch. There are countless families that have known the sinking feeling of receiving a phone call from the hospital or police in the middle of the night. Mothers and fathers who wish they took an extra minute to chat with their son or daughter about the dangers of joy riding and speeding. Friends who will live with the guilt of egging a friend on and into an accident. You don’t need to be included in that misery. Before you throw your young drivers the keys this year, take a minute to have a real talk and make sure they know to keep their speed in check.