They grow up fast, don’t they? It seems like kids go from learning to ride a bike to learning to drive a car in the blink of an eye. For parents, the transition can be bittersweet. On one hand, it can be rewarding to watch a child make the leap toward responsibility and adulthood. On the other, the data surrounding teen driving is appalling and even downright scary. However, it is important that both parents and teens face the facts surrounding teen driving to better learn how to avoid becoming a statistic.
Teens Have the Lowest Seatbelt Usage of Any Age Group
According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA), teenagers don’t always buckle up. In fact, 1 in 5 did not use safety belts in 2008. Unfortunately, that is the single factor that kills the majority of teens in fatal accidents. In 2009, more than half of teens killed in car accidents were not wearing their seatbelts.
Summer is the Most Dangerous Time for Teenagers
Car accidents are already the leading cause of death in U.S. teens age 16 and older, but did you know that the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is statistically the most dangerous? The National Safety Council refers to this as the 100 most deadly days for teens.
Having Just One Teen Passenger in the Car Increases the Risk of an Accident by 44%
Teenagers are social creatures. They love being around each other and spending time together. Unfortunately, research has shown that teenagers who drive with other teens in the car are at an increased risk of being in an accident. That is why many graduated licensing laws in the U.S. limit the number of peers who can ride in the car with a newly licensed teen driver.
Distracted Driving is the Number One Cause of Teen Accidents
Aside from having other teens in the vehicle, other distractions are also a problem for teens. Cell phone use is particularly dangerous, increasing the risk of a crash four times over. In fact, a teen’s reaction time behind the wheel is the same as that of a 70-year old when driving distracted. There are many types of distractions besides cell phones and texting. Your teen could be putting herself at risk if she is distracted by:
- Surfing the web
- Reaching for something
- Adjusting the radio
- Looking at scenery
What You Can Do
While the statistics on teen driving are disturbing, knowledge is power. There are some things parents can do to get involved and help prevent accidents and fatalities.
- Set a good example
- Enforce a curfew
- Continue driving with your teen even after licensure
- Talk to teens about drinking and driving
- Limit the number of people who can ride with your teen
- Discuss the importance of seatbelts
- Talk with teens about the dangers of texting while driving
- Create a parent-teen driving contract that outlines your expectations
You can also have your teen assume some financial responsibility in his or her driving. Perhaps that means paying the cost of car insurance for teens. This one simple step forces a teen to become financially invested in his or her own driving habits. Since insurance rates tend to rise when teens engage in risky driving behaviors, this could provide a monetary incentive for safer driving.
The National Safety Council also supports the use of technology that monitors your teen’s driving habits. While not designed to replace parental involvement, some cars come equipped with internal monitoring systems. Parents can also invest in after-market car monitoring systems, as well as app-based solutions.