Teenage drivers have a bad reputation. The idea that teenagers are inherently bad drivers is partially grounded in fact and bias. People often assume the worst of teenagers, even though many of them just want to do the right thing. That bias can lead to people having strong, negative reactions to encountering a student driver on the road.

When you encounter a marked vehicle with a student driver in public, you might feel like you should adjust your driving habits or possibly change your route to avoid that car altogether. After all, you don’t want to get into a serious crash caused by an inexperienced driver. How do you respond to a teenage driver or other student driver on the road with you?

Student drivers are under direct observation

Statistics make it clear that teen drivers are at higher risk than many other age groups for fatalities in the car. When teens die in crashes, 58% of the time they are not wearing seat belts. Many of these crashes involve distraction, speeding, alcohol or other dangerous decisions.

In other words, those crashes occur when a teenager is either alone in a vehicle or driving with friends and peers instead of adults. Student drivers have an adult teacher in the vehicle with them who watches every move they make. Drivers still trying to earn their licenses will likely be on their best behavior because they want to pass the course. They will also be wearing their seat belt.

Remember that your driving helps set an example

While you don’t necessarily want to change everything about the way that you drive due to a young driver nearby, you may also want to consider how your behavior might shape the driving habits of that young driver.

Being respectful, demonstrating patience if they take a while to complete a maneuver and generally being extra attentive are good practices when you are close to a student driver. Hopefully, they will see the care you take and demonstrate the same respect and consideration to other drivers in the future.

Being aware of student drivers nearby and teen drivers when they are obvious on the road can help you stay safe, but you should remember that much of your risk for a crash comes from your own habits, not the people driving close to you.