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Tips to Teach Teen Drivers About Work Zones



We all want to keep our kids and communities safe. Teaching teenagers about work zone safety is one way to do just that. New drivers can be unsafe to pedestrians, roadway workers, and drivers alike. Teenagers have the highest rate of crashes in general, and especially in work zones. Unfortunately, poor driving habits that are often performed by teenagers can greatly enhance the risk for those working on roadways, including the employees of traffic control companies.


Before sending your new driver out on the road, consider focusing specifically on work zone safety with them. Evaluate their responses carefully before letting them tackle work zones on their own.


Common Mistakes Teen Drivers Make


The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among kids 16 - 19 years old than in any other age group, according to the Center for Disease Control. Inexperience plays a significant role in these statistics. As does speeding, lack of seat belt use, alcohol use, and texting while driving.


Think back to your teenage years. What risks did you take then, that you wouldn’t even consider now? Teenagers are notorious risk-takers. Combine that with a 1-ton vehicle, and you could have a serious issue. Risk-seeking, as well as inexperience, leads to a higher rate of speeding among teenagers. Teens often don’t have a good grasp of their reaction time behind the wheel, causing them to drive faster while overestimating their abilities. This can be deadly in a work zone where traffic can start and stop suddenly.


Teenagers can also overestimate their driving experience. As with all kids, they want less supervision, faster. This is understandable-- after all, we can’t be by their side forever. But it’s important to prepare them for every situation on the road before setting them loose. Preparing them for work zones is an extremely important part of their driving education.


Teen Drivers & Work Zones


According to the National Work Zone Safety Organization, a teenage driver is killed every three days and seven are injured each day in work zone crashes. That means that over the course of just one week, an average of six teenagers are killed and 49 are injured due to work zone crashes. That is far too many kids to lose to poor driving in work zones.


While an experienced adult driver knows how surprisingly fast a traffic jam can occur in a work zone or what happens during a lane change, a new driver can easily become confused. The changing environment of a work zone requires focus, attention, and experience.


One contributing factor is a lack of education on work zone safety for new drivers. Most Driver’s Education courses have so much to cover in such a short period of time that work zone safety only gets a small portion of the course. It’s important to teach your teen how to drive safely in a work zone as early as possible.


What Your Teen Needs to Know About Work Zones


Traffic control companies are here to help your teenage driver navigate the work zone safely. Flaggers will do their best to provide clear and consistent signals that should be easily understood, as long as the driver is paying attention.


Emphasize that your teen cannot text and drive in a work zone. Distracted driving can be especially dangerous in such a fluid environment. When it comes to work zones, distracted driving kills. In a work zone, lanes can change, traffic can start and stop without warning, and the environment is constantly evolving. Answering a single text could mean that you miss a lane change or plow into the car in front of you.


Remind your teen to drive slower than they think they need to in a work zone. Remember, a concrete barrier and a few traffic cones is often all that separates the driver’s one-ton hunk of metal from vulnerable workers by the side of the road. Driving faster means that it takes longer to stop, and could place lives at risk.


Many new drivers don’t know that failure to follow directions from traffic control flaggers is a ticketed offense with a fine that could easily be several hundred dollars. If a new driver is unsure of a flagger’s directions, it’s important to slow way down and watch the cars surrounding them for clues.


Resources for Teen Drivers


Luckily, there’s a wide variety of resources available to help your teen learn how to drive in work zones. The California Department of Transportation has actually launched a computer game that teaches new drivers how to operate a vehicle safely in a work zone.


There’s also the Turning Point Campaign, spearheaded by the National Work Zone Safety Organization. This program aims to educate new drivers about work zone safety via video resources, downloadable materials, work zone safety tips, and more.


Free downloadable materials from a wide variety of organizations are available to go over with your teenager. The Virginia Department of Transportation even has downloadable worksheets for your teenager.


Accompany your teenage driver through their first work zone encounter. Be sure to show them how to navigate work zones both on the highway and on back roads, as the experience can differ greatly depending on where you’re located.


On Directional Traffic’s website, you can find examples of various traffic control equipment your teen may encounter on the road. Scroll through our picture gallery to find images of flagger apparel, message boards, and more. Be sure to watch our video of AFADs in action. Ask your new driver if they have any questions about what specific equipment is used for. If they have a question you can’t answer, reach out to us directly. We’re happy to help.


Safer drivers mean safer work zones for everyone.


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