The topic of teen driving often stresses the myriad of risk factors that come about when a young person gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Mark Cyphers of the Ridgefield Driving School is tasked with a large responsibility. He works closely with this age group and instructs them as they learn to become safe, prepared, and defensive drivers.

What do you do as a driving instructor and what about your work gives you the most satisfaction?

Mark CyphersIn its simplest form, I teach teens to drive via classroom and in-car instruction. My greatest satisfaction comes with watching a struggling student finally ‘get it’. Whether it be proper cornering technique or a parking maneuver, it is fun to watch their brains finally grasp a concept that had otherwise eluded them.

In your experience, what is the largest contributing factor in teen driving accidents and how can they be avoided?

Distraction is the greatest threat to young drivers. The number one distraction being other people in the car, followed closely by cell phones. New drivers need to make a conscious choice to keep their friends out of the car and put their cell phones out of sight and out of reach. Connecticut law states that a 16- or 17-year old driver may not allow friends in the car until they have held a license for one full year. Additionally, they may not use a hands-free cell phone until they are 18 years old. I also believe parents play a big role in encouraging their children to follow the laws. Talking about risk, setting some ground rules, and leading by example will play a big part in a teen’s ultimate decision as to whether or not they do something dangerous.

What makes a safe, defensive driver?

Expecting the unexpected and preparing for the worst. Drivers need to IMAGINE what could go wrong and come up with a solution before it actually does go wrong. It is not enough to just solve the problem in front of you, drivers need to prepare for the ‘what if’ situations. ‘What if that pedestrian does not see me?’ ‘What if that car runs the stop sign?’ We teach our students to expect the worst case scenario and then be happy when it turns out better than they expected.

New England is prone to extreme weather with varying conditions. Do you have any tips on how to navigate the roadways when the weather has affected them or when visibility is minimized?

Reduce speed! Turn on your lights! Stay home if you are uncomfortable driving! People generally drive too fast for conditions and do not appreciate how much less traction is available during rain, snow, or ice. A tire can only provide so much grip to slow, stop and turn your car. When speed increases incrementally, your need for traction grows exponentially. That means if you were to double your speed, you need four times the distance to stop. Triple your speed, nine times the distance to stop. Get into a vacant parking lot when it snows and see how your car reacts to slippery conditions. How quickly will it stop? How does it react to steering inputs? Better to do it in a controlled environment versus on the road when it really matters!

Is there a specific message you would like to get across to both experienced and inexperienced drivers?

Just take it easy out there. Everyone needs to drive but not everyone’s skill level is the same. Be tolerant of other drivers. All drivers make mistakes, you make mistakes, I make mistakes. If someone cuts you off, maybe don’t get so angry. Be thankful that you avoided the collision and move on with your day.

Pro Tip:   Teen driving accidents that involve significant injuries sometimes require the services of an injury attorney who can help in a variety of accident cases. Should you have any questions about your Connecticut accident case, please contact us.