It’s Teen Driver Safety Week, and it’s important to have the tools to keep your budding driver safe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatal motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in the U.S. Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience.
Make sure teens know the rules of the road and have taken an accredited road safety and driver instruction course to get the basic “rules of the road”, such as laws and driving techniques, but also remember:
Parental involvement: Talk to your children about safe driving often, even before they reach driving age.
- Model appropriate behavior: Show your children safe driving with your own good driving behavior. Model good habits any time you drive children, long before they start to drive. Turn off your cell phone and lock it away, and always wear your seat belt.
- Let them know the basic rules as part of their driving privileges: No cell phones while driving, no passengers, no speeding, zero alcohol or drugs, no driving when tired, and always buckle up.
- Set consequences for breaking the rules, such as suspended driving privileges, limited driving hours or destinations, and limited access to their cell phones, for example.
- Seat belts – According to NHTSA, seat belt use is lowest among teen drivers, but statistics repeatedly show that seat belts save lives. In 2016, more than 800 15- to 18-year-old drivers and 569 passengers died in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers, and of those, 58% were not wearing seat belts at the time of the fatal crash.
Risky behavior: Risky behavior for teen drivers can take a number of forms, from drugged or drunk driving to speeding, not wearing seat belts, and traveling with multiple passengers in the car. Teens don’t have the experience or maturity to handle multiple passengers, especially peers who may engage in loud conversations or horseplay with the driver.
- In a study analyzed by NHTSA, teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer, compared to when driving alone. In fact, research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teenagers in the car.
Distracted driving: Distractions greatly reduce a driver’s ability to react to other drivers, roadway hazards, and bad weather. Even in the best road and weather conditions, being distracted by electronic devices increases the risk for accidents.
- Electronic devices aren’t the only distractions; eating, drinking coffee, applying makeup, or the addition of passengers in the car, for example, can distract drivers of any age. Even taking eyes off the road for a few seconds can have fatal consequences.
Drunk/drugged Driving: Talk to your teen about alcohol and drug use and driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely than anyone else to be killed in an alcohol-related crash. In 2016, almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. Drugs, whether prescribed, over-the-counter, or illicit, can also affect driving.
- Remember, the legal alcohol limit for drivers under 21 is zero. Establish a no alcohol/no drugs rule, set consequences and enforce them. In addition, tell your teen to never ride with anyone who’s been drinking or using drugs, and let them know you will pick them up regardless of time or location.
- When caught by police for drunk or drugged driving, teens face possible jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, and expenses such as attorney fees, court costs, fines and insurance rate increases. In addition, college acceptance and scholarships can be affected.