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Safety Advice for Teen Drivers

A long time ago, when it was time to take my driver’s test, my friend Carmen was kind enough to lend me her car as well as get up early on a Saturday and drive me to the DMV. That’s friendship! As we were about to pull out of her driveway, Carmen’s dad sauntered out of the garage and up to the car. He leaned down, poked his head through the window and said, “I’m going to tell you what I told Carmen when she got her license.” He paused for dramatic effect and then slowly said, “Never drive angry.” Then he stood up, patted the hood of the car and strolled away.

Driving Exam

At 18, I don’t think I fully understood that advice. But I have thought about it regularly over the years and it has certainly stood me in good stead. With next week, October 17 – 23, being National Teen Driver Safety week – sponsored by Parachute, a national Canadian charity dedicated to creating a safer Canada – I wondered what other sage advice friends and colleagues had received as they started their driving careers. So I asked around and received a few stories to share.

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From Bryan R., Unit Leader at Suncor…
“Something I took away from Drivers Ed in Fort McMurray in 1998: in the winter, do 80% of your braking before you need to come to a stop. Slippery conditions can leave you with less room to stop than you normally need.”

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From Kiret B., Project Lead at Suncor…
“I grew up in Vancouver and learned how to drive from a family friend who owned a driving school. The greatest tip he ever gave me is that you cannot control what is happening in front of you but you can have an influence on what is happening behind you.

Kiret at 19 years old
Kiret at 19 years old, standing behind the second car

The way to do that is by watching your following distance: if someone is following you too closely, keep an extra bit of room from the car in front of you. Then in case of an emergency stop, you have enough distance to stop safely plus there is an extra margin for the person behind you to hopefully stop without hitting your car.”

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From Elizabeth B., Director, Transformation Office at Suncor…
“My Grandpa used to say - signal before you brake.”

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From Paul D., Community Manager at LintBucket Media…
“I remember one time, learning to drive on a rural road with my Dad. We were going the speed limit, but even so it wasn’t long before an impatient pick-up was riding our tail. It was on us for a while, trying to bully me into going faster, before it finally peeled out to overtake us - the driver gesticulating rudely and swearing at me through the open window. I had so many impulses: I wanted to gesture back, shout, lay on the horn, accelerate and tail him for a while, maybe pass him and shout some choice words of my own - see how he liked it!

My dad must have sensed what I was thinking. ‘Just breathe. There are jerks everywhere. Don’t let it get to you, and never retaliate. You are responsible for your own safety, and the safety of your passengers first.’ Now I live in Ontario and drive the 401 on a regular basis. That advice comes in handy!”

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Many thanks to everyone who shared their stories with me! Did you receive some key advice as a teen driver that has stayed with you? Share it in the comments!

~ Kate T.


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Elaine Prescott

Motor vehicle examiners stay cool! During my first licensing exam I drove the wrong way on a one way street and also did a poor parallel park. The Examiner stayed so cool.... I actually wondered if he was going to pass me. I brushed up on my driving skills for my second licensing exam.

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