Blog - Winter Safety

First Tracks — Teens and Winter Driving

March 5, 2020 by Jake Melder

It’s a weekend tradition for many Idaho families — heading up to snowy mountains to ski or board together. Parents often put quite a bit of time, lessons and teaching moments into making sure their kids have fun and learn safety on the hill.

In the same way, learning to drive in winter weather can be a challenge, and teens have a few extra obstacles to overcome as brand new drivers. Just like ski lessons, teens need a little help to be prepared and safe on winter roads.

Emily Kormylo, Idaho’s Driver Education Coordinator, says winter is a popular time for parents to enroll their teen in drivers ed. Parents hope the winter conditions will help their teens learn driving skills in challenging situations that can help them year-round. And for a good reason — teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their lack of experience. They speed, they make mistakes, and they get distracted easily — especially if their friends are in the car (as reported by NHTSA).

How can you — as a parent — help?

Practice

In addition to enrolling your teen in drivers ed, help your teen practice their winter driving skills. Go to a parking lot to practice on ice, in low-visibility and snowy conditions. Talk about road conditions they may encounter even in early spring — like icy corners on rural highways or obscured lane lines when snow piles up. Make sure your car is winter-ready and check road conditions at 511.idaho.gov before any road trip.

Leave Early and Slow Down

For most teens, mornings are not their favorite time of day. But rushing around and running late can make driving on slick roads even more stressful.

Speed is a significant factor in winter crashes. One out of every five crashes in Idaho involves a young driver. Younger drivers, especially teens, also showed more risk of contributing factors in crashes like speeding, inattention and tailgating.

While the message is simple, slowing down and buckling up are simple ways teens can stay safe on the roads.

Minimize Distractions

We know teens are more susceptible to distractions behind the wheel, especially if friends are in the car. Distractions could include:

  • Texting or talking on the phone
  • Eating
  • Loud music or conversations with friends

Encourage your teen to be an engaged driver, in the moment, focused on the road.

Be the Driver You Want Them to Be

Parents, sometimes what you say isn’t nearly as loud as what you do. Especially when it comes to what you do in the car. Be an engaged driver. Slow down in inclement weather. Wear your seat belt and put down the phone. Your kids and teens are watching you for good driving habits.

Visit Shift-idaho.org/idahoready for winter driving tips, including info on winter emergency kits and pointers for new-to-snow drivers.