Talk to your teen about safe driving
When teens start driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council, the sobering statistics start to pile up:
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers ages 14 to 18.
- A teenager’s crash risk is three times higher than more experienced drivers.
- Sitting in a car with three or more passengers quadruples a teenage driver’s crash risk.
- More than half of the teenagers killed in accidents were not wearing seat belts.
However, you can help your young driver make better decisions behind the wheel. Start by setting a good example yourself. And set aside time for a serious discussion of the following issues, all of which have a significant impact on the safety of teenage drivers:
- Speed: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding continues to grow as a factor in fatal crashes involving teenage drivers. Thirty-three percent of such accidents in 2011 involved excessive speed. While much emphasis is rightly placed on the risks of driving under the influence or distracted, the risk of speeding is just as great.
- Alcohol: If drivers are under the age of 21, it is illegal to drive with alcohol in their system. As simple as that. And not only does the risk of a serious crash increase when alcohol is involved, but jail time is also possible.
- Seat belts: Teenagers don’t wear their seat belts as often as adults, so it’s important to set a good example and always wear yours. Seat belts are the easiest way to protect themselves in a crash, so let teens know that buckling up is mandatory.
- Telephones: Distracted driving is dangerous, especially for inexperienced teenagers. That means no calls or texts while behind the wheel – no exceptions. But again, it pays to lead by example when driving with your teenager in the car.
- Passenger: According to NHTSA, the risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers in a teen driver’s car increases. Depending on your state’s youth driver licensing laws, limiting your teen to one passenger is a good guideline. (Some states do not allow teenagers to have passengers for a period of time.)
Of course, all drivers need to have a good grasp of the laws and rules of the road, and since teenagers don’t have much experience, it’s important to have regular conversations about safe driving. But how teenagers drive doesn’t just depend on them. It depends on you too!