Car crashes are the leading cause of death and disability for teens in the US. During the first 18 months after receiving a driver’s license, a teen driver is 4 times more likely to get into a car accident than an adult driver. Most serious teen driving accidents occur as the result of ‘critical errors’ such as
- failure to keep a lookout for road hazards
- driving too fast
- being distracted
Many of the accidents that occur could be avoided when teens appreciate the responsibility that comes with the privilege of driving and take the time to develop their driving skills. Teenagers can improve their chances of a safe driving experience by incorporating these 5 practices as they start driving.
- Know and Follow Your State’s Graduated Driver’s License System
All 50 states have some type of Graduated Driver’s License System (GDL) in place to limit the driving behaviors of newly permitted and licensed drivers until they have a certain amount of driving experience. In many states, newly licensed drivers are limited from driving during certain night-time hours and as to the number and type of passengers they can carry. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that following the GDL laws can reduce a teen’s crash risk by 50%.
- Make it a Habit to Always Wear Your Seatbelt
Teen drivers (and passengers) have the lowest rate of seatbelt use of any aged drivers. Not wearing a seatbelt means you are 30 times more likely to be ejected from your car in a crash. If ejected, you have a 75% chance of dying. Parents who stress the importance of wearing a seatbelt (and model the same) have teens that are twice as likely to wear a seatbelt.
- Say No to Excess Speed
Teens are more likely to speed and less likely to anticipate the greater distance necessary to stop or to understand the effects of speed while driving on various road conditions. Speed is a factor in about 1/3 of all teen driving fatalities. And when a teen is speeding with friends in the car, the risk of a speed related fatality accident increases dramatically.
- Keep Your Eyes on the Road NOT Your Cell Phone
Driving is one activity where a second or two of inattention can have devastating results. Distracted driving is a big problem with teens. Feeling the need to stay in constant contact and not miss anything causes teens to read or respond to that text and takes their attention off the road. Add inexperience to inattention and that can create some deadly results. Statistics show the dangers of teen drivers and cell phone use.
- cell phone use while driving is highest among 16 -24 year olds
- female drivers using a cell phone are more likely to die in a fatal crash than males
- teens who text and drive are 3 times more likely to get in a crash
- texting while driving doubles the amount of time it takes to react to a traffic situation
- Get Comfortable Driving Before You Take Passengers
Teens are 3 times more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors when there are other teen passengers in the car. The GDL laws in most states limit the number of peer passengers a newly licensed driver can carry for the first year they are licensed. Even if a state’s laws do not prohibit teen drivers from having passengers, it is a good practice to limit teen passengers until the driver has enough experience to be comfortable driving in most traffic situations.
Finally being able to drive is a rite of passage for most teens. It signifies one of the first big freedoms on the way to adulthood. But with the freedom of driving comes the responsibility of realizing that driving can also be very dangerous. Teens need to understand the risks that come with being able to drive and commit themselves to implementing safe driving practices. Stressing the importance of obeying the laws, developing good driving habits and always paying attention to driving when behind the wheel will help your teenager become a good driver and stay safe on the roads.