Parents have a lot of anxieties when it comes to their kids. How are they doing in school? Are they making friends? Are they happy and healthy? If you’ve got a teen who has or is about to get a driver’s license, you’re probably worried about their safety out on the road. Particularly when you know that 37,461 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 alone. So don’t rely just on driver’s education. Lay down the rules for getting and keeping the keys to the car.
National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from October 21-27, is a great time to start a conversation about the six major dangers affecting teen drivers. Let them know that obeying the rules of the road is a prerequisite for the privilege of driving. Breaking the rules means hoofing it, riding the bus, or going back to begging for rides from mom and dad.
Drive Sober or Not at All
In 2016, nearly one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking alcohol—despite the fact that it’s illegal everywhere in America to drink if you’re under 21. Make it clear that driving impaired by any substance—alcohol or drugs—is deadly and against the law.
Roughly half of those 16 to 20 years old who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 weren’t wearing seat belts. In 85 percent of the cases when the teen driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt, their passengers were not wearing seat belts either. Tell your teen driver they must buckle up, every ride, every time.
About 10 percent of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. Explain the dangers of driving distracted by phones and texting or anything else, and that driving attentively is essential for safe driving.
Speeding was a factor in about one-third of all fatal teen driver crashes. 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.
Passengers can serve as another distraction for inexperienced teen drivers. 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.
Between school, sports, activities, and part-time jobs, a teen’s schedule can cut into much needed sleep, which can lead to drowsy driving. People are most likely to feel drowsy between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m., which is generally when teens are driving home from school. Explain the dangers of driving drowsy before your teen driver takes the wheel.
Don’t Just Set the Rules—Set the Example
You’re a role model. When a teen driver sees you obeying the rules of the road, they get the message. If you’re not, they adopt those behaviors when on the road. Check yourself: assess how you’re driving and think about what your driving communicates to your teen driver.
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 Driver page to see how we can work together to deliver safer roads.