Protecting Your Teen Driver
Know the facts before handing the keys to the kid
Here’s a startling statistic: According to the National Safety Council, half of all teenagers will be involved in a car crash before graduating from high school.
Since automobile accidents represent the number one cause of death for teens, it’s vitally important to consider the four top causes of teen vehicle crashes, and how these risks can be avoided.
Wear Your Seat Belt
FACT: 66% of teen passengers who die in a crash are not wearing a seat belt (NOYS)
Parents are very influential in a teen’s ultimate decision to wear a seat belt. If parents habitually wear theirs when they’re driving (and make the kids buckle up as well), then that habit will pass to the teen when they start driving.
Parents need to communicate the point that seat belts are not an option; They’re absolutely mandatory for every person in the vehicle in any driving situation. Further, most states now make buckling up the law and will issue tickets to drivers and passengers who aren’t following the law.
Eliminate the Distractions
FACT: 58% of teens involved in crashes are distracted (National Organization for Youth Safety)
While the cell phone has become the top distraction for texting and talking teens, other factors contribute to taking one’s eyes off the road, including changing the radio station, watching a friend’s antics in the back seat, putting on make-up, and a whole host of other attention-grabbers.
Teens need to know the importance of staying focused while driving, in the event a split-second decision to brake or swerve is needed. That may require placing a limit on the number of passengers in the car while driving, or mandating that the phone stays in the glove compartment while the engine is running.
Fix That Beater
FACT: Teens often drive some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road.
According to an IIHS study, teen-owned vehicles are normally low-budget, older models purchased by penny-pinching parents who unwittingly believe that such cars offer protection in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, older vehicles often lack today’s safety features, including side airbags and electronic stability control (which can detect when a driver has lost steering control, and automatically applies brakes to help correct the issue.) Older high-mileage “hand-me-down” cars also experience the most mechanical trouble, which can put teens in precarious positions in the event of a break-down on the road.
If you’re shopping for a car for your teen, look for the newest model you can afford, and stay away from the small or mini-sized cars that have poor crash-test ratings or lack important safety features that are designed to protect your child.
Don’t Drink & Drive
FACT: 25% of car crashes involved an underage drinking driver (NOYS)
Some people never learn that drinking and driving simply don’t mix, and teens are often among that group. Teens need to be made aware of the many risks of being in a vehicle with a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Buzzed or drunk driving not only imperils passengers, it puts other nearby vehicles and pedestrians at risk as well.
Teens need to feel comfortable in calling parents, siblings or any other non-impaired friend to ask for a ride home. It’s a smart decision that demonstrates responsibility in a potentially lethal environment.
According to AAA, teens only represent 7% of licensed drivers, but are involved in 20% of fatal crashes. Therefore teen drivers have to recognize the fact that every time they get behind the wheel, the risk of an accident is lurking. These safety suggestions aren’t just common-sense recommendations, they represent potentially life or death decisions.