Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds in the United States? In 2014, there were 2,679 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, and more than 120,000 teens were injured on the road. In fact, teen drivers are involved in three times as many fatal accidents as all other drivers. One major factor that increases the risk of a crash is impaired driving, which includes alcohol and drug use, as well as distraction, fatigue, and strong emotions. Teen drivers also crash because they are inexperienced at judging gaps in traffic and adjusting driving speed for road and weather conditions.
This year, National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 16-22 and a great opportunity to start a conversation with your teen driver about the rules of the road. The many dangers of driving include distracted driving, alcohol use, excessive speeding, driving with extra passengers, and forgetting to buckle up. Research shows that many teens understand they are vulnerable and are aware of the many risks and responsibilities of driving. The most effective way to share safety messages with your teen driver is to focus on the positive actions they can take to be safe on the road.
As the parent of a teen driver, you have the greatest influence on your teen’s life, even if you think they aren’t listening. Promote driver safety in your home by sending a consistent message to your teen. If you frequently speed, run red lights, or talk and text illegally while driving, don’t be surprised when your teen follows your example. Instead, teach your teen safe driving skills by managing speed on the road. Explain why speeds are reduced in school or residential zones, and demonstrate how to adjust driving speed in bad weather conditions or on unlighted roads.
Stash your iPhone in the glove box while the car is in motion and turn down the music to reduce distractions. Remain proactive behind the wheel and demonstrate how to scan the road ahead for possible driving hazards such as thick fog or debris on the road from another vehicle. When teen drivers learn to be proactive and develop skills to anticipate what’s ahead on the road, they will have more time to react and avoid potential accidents. Help your teen driver get a safe start on the road by starting a conversation, sending a consistent message, demonstrating safe driving skills, and being the coach your teen needs.