Teaching your teen to drive involves more than just making sure they understand how the car works. Teen drivers who are inexperienced and reckless cause thousands of fatal road accidents every year. From not paying attention, to speeding, to falling victim to endless road distractions, there is not doubt that teens are more susceptible to hazards on the road. Fortunately, most of these accidents are entirely preventable.
With today marking the start of National Teen Driving Safety Week, now is the time to find out what your teen really knows about road safety. Regardless of how long your teen has been driving, the rules of the road stay the same. Determining what areas they struggle in can help stop a fatal accident before it occurs. Just sparking conversation with your teen about safe driving increases their chances of not participating in risky behaviors and could save multiple lives in the end.
The Facts About Teen Driving
Driving is a privilege that can become deadly when things go wrong. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 15 to 18. In 2017, nearly 2,250 people in the United States were killed in car crashes involving teen drivers; 34 percent of these accidents resulted in the death of the teen driver.
Reviewing the facts behind teen driving accidents is often the best initial approach to spark a conversation with your teen about road safety. DoSomething.org, a youth organization dedicated to social change and civic action, highlights the following teen driving facts that could help parents build a dialogue:
- 16-year-olds have the highest crash rate across all age groups; 1 in 5 will get into an accident within the first year of driving.
- 56% of teens report talking on the phone when driving.
- 44% of teens would speak up if someone was driving recklessly with them in the car, while others would say nothing.
- For every passenger in the car with a teen driver, the risk of fatal accidents increases.
- Crash rates also significantly increase for every mile a teen driver goes over the marked speed limit.
- Teens whose parents talk to them about safe driving are twice as likely to wear seatbelts.
- 40% of teen driving fatalities occur at night, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
- 56% of teens learn how to drive from their parents.
The majority of fatal road accidents for teens occur during the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer, where fatal accidents involving teen drivers spike at least 14 percent. This trend often occurs when swarms of new drivers are hitting the road for the first time. However, most teen drivers are still not experienced enough to avoid accidents when beginning to drive to school or during the winter months when ice and snow plague Maryland roads.
The “Eight Danger Zones” of Teen Driving
Inexperienced teen drivers do not always understand of how certain road behaviors can put them at risk. They do not view dangers in the same way as adult drivers and are more likely to take unnecessary risks in the hope that no harm will come to them.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) highlights “eight danger zones” parents should know that most commonly lead to fatal teen driving accidents:
- Intoxicated Driving
- No Seat Belts
- Distracted Driving
- Drowsy Driving
- Too Many Passengers
The leading cause of teen driving fatalities that all of these risks have in common is driver inexperience. Teen drivers are not born with the critical knowledge of what and how their behaviors behind the wheel can increase their chances for road accidents. It is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and driving coaches to teach our teens the safest ways to drive, and parents are the master key.
Parents- What You Say Matters
Teens are watching their parents drive more than you think. Every time you take your hands off the wheel to make a phone call, fix your hair, or reach behind you to grab something, your children remember these as acceptable things to do while you’re driving.
Parents are the number one threat to their teen’s pattern of safe driving behaviors. Teens need more guidance and information than learning the basics of a vehicle, and they won’t get all of this information from a class. It’s up to parents to review road dangers, driving laws, and set house rules surrounding safe driving to ensure your teen is using caution behind the wheel.
The C.D.C. provides a number of resources parents can access to start bringing up the topic of safe driving in their home:
Know the “Eight Danger Zones”
Chances are your teen has already participated in at least one of the “eight danger zones” listed above. Talk to your teen about the risks of these behaviors and the stats linked with road fatalities. Reviewing one danger zone every time you discuss road safety could greatly decrease their chances of making the same mistakes in the future.
Enforce The Laws
Don’t let your teens drive without a Graduated Driver License (GDL), no matter how prepared they appear to be. GDL’s help young drivers gain the skills they need to be successful on the road and are proven to reduce teen crash rates. Skipping these steps can put your teen and others on the road at significant risk for life-threatening injuries.
Create A Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
If the time has come for your teen to drive, focus on safety from the start. Set ground rules about your expectations for safe driving with a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement including rules such as:
- No cell phones when driving.
- No speeding.
- No drowsy driving.
- No passengers in the car.
- No alcohol.
- Always buckle up.
Treat driving as the privilege it is. If your teen is not showing signs that they are capable of driving safe, take the keys away until they do.
Share What You Learn
Parents can find support for reducing teen driving fatalities by working together to spread awareness in their community. Teen drivers face new hazards every year as driving distractions and technology increases. Share the tips that worked for you with local parent groups to build a network dedicated to protecting teens.
Thousands of lives can be saved every year by educating teens on safe behaviors behind the wheel. Stay informed and see how you can get involved in your community to encourage all teens to drive safely.