Earning a driver’s license has long been a rite of passage for America’s teens—a first step toward freedom and independence. As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from October 15-21, NHTSA is urging parents to start a conversation about safety with their teen driver. Let your young driver know that obeying the rules of the road is a prerequisite for the privilege of driving.
No Drinking and Driving
Talk about the fact that it’s illegal to drink before you’re 21—and that mixing alcohol and driving, or driving under the influence of any drug, is unacceptable at any age. Almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.
The car doesn’t move until everyone is buckled up—front seat or back, on every trip, every time. In 2015, 58 percent of the 531 passengers who died in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers were not wearing seat belts. When the teen driver was unbuckled, 84 percent of those passengers were also unbuckled.
Driving is the first and only task when behind the wheel. That means no phones or texting while driving, and not doing anything else—like eating and drinking or fixing hair and makeup—when you should be 100 percent focused on driving. About 10 percent of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash.
Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially for teens who lack the experience to react to changing circumstances around their cars. More speed means less time to react. About one-third of all fatal teen-driver crashes involved speeding. Make sure that your teen knows that the rule is to obey the posted speed limit at all times.
Passengers increase a teen’s risk for a fatal crash. That’s because other passengers can distract an inexperienced teen driver. Review your State’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) restrictions before your teen takes to the road; these restrictions may prohibit passengers in vehicles with teen drivers and set other rules for safety.
Parents: Explain the Rules and Set the Example
As parents and as a country, we need to engage with young drivers to keep them safe. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States.
We also need to be setting a better example for teens. When they see their parents and family members obeying the rules of the road, young drivers get the message.
Teen Driver Safety Week may only last 7 days, but remind your teen driver about these safety rules every day—you can remind them every time they head out the door, leave notes by their keys, or even invade their timeline with (possibly embarrassing) messages to drive safely. If you keep the conversation about safe driving going, you’ll help keep our roads and our teen drivers safe.
For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and safe driving tips for teens, visit www.nhtsa.gov/teen-driving.