Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for teens 15 to 18 years old. In 2021, 861 teen drivers died in crashes, and a total of 2,608 teen drivers were involved in crashes where someone died.
Parents: National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from October 15-21, is a great time for you to talk with your teen about the major dangers affecting teen drivers. You should let your teen drivers know that obeying the rules of the road is a must. Breaking the rules leads to walking, riding the bus, using rideshare or going back to begging for rides from mom and dad.
The Rules of the Road
Always Buckle Up
The car doesn’t move until everyone is buckled up — front seat and back, on every trip, every time. Over half of the passengers killed in cars driven by teen drivers in recent years weren’t buckled up in 2021.
No drinking and no drugs
Emphasize the fact that it’s illegal to drink before you’re 21 — and that driving drunk or high is unacceptable at any age. In 2021, 19% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.
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, drinking, or fixing hair and makeup — when you should fully focus on driving. About 10% of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in recent years were distracted at the time of the crash. Teens should activate the “do not disturb” feature on their phones to eliminate the distractions notifications cause.
Almost one-third of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding in 2021. Faster speeds rob inexperienced teen drivers of the extra reaction time they may need to avoid a crash. Emphasize that they must obey posted speed limits.
Limit extra passengers
Teen drivers are at a greater risk for a crash when they have others in their car. Passengers can serve as a distraction for inexperienced teen drivers, and that's why many states’ graduated driver licensing (GDL) restrictions prohibit any passengers in vehicles with teen drivers. GDL laws also set other limits on teen drivers for safety.
We all know how important sleep is, especially for your teens during the school year when studying can cause long nights. Remind your teen the importance of a good night's sleep, and the dangers of drowsy driving.
Don’t just set the rules — set the example
Parents, you’re role models. When a teen driver sees you obeying the rules of the road, they get the message. If you’re breaking the rules, they may adopt those behaviors when they’re on the road. Check yourself: assess how you’re driving (whether you’re following the rules of the road) and think about what your driving communicates to your teen driver.
While National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great reminder to discuss safe driving as a family, keep the conversation going year-round. If you do, you’ll not only better protect your young driver, you’ll be contributing to safer roads in your community. For even more information, visit our Teen Driving section.