All parents of teenage drivers are familiar with the apprehension and anxiety that comes with having your child behind the wheel of a car. Is she ready to drive on her own? Will she make the right decisions? Has she read up on any teen driver safety tips? Is she going to follow those tips? It can be downright nerve-wracking.
Your concerns are certainly justified. Teen drivers are inexperienced, over-confident, and easily distracted. In 2012, 1,875 drivers aged 15-20 died and 184,000 sustained injuries in traffic accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Moreover, these stats do not include teens that sustained injuries or died as passengers.
As a parent, you will want to talk to your teen about the dangers, set the rules and reinforce good driving habits, and take whatever safety measures you can to keep your child safe.
What are some common causes of accidents amongst teens?
There are various dangerous things teens do that make them susceptible to accidents. One of the most common hazards is using a cell phone while driving.
Teens are avid texters; many of them are rarely separated from their phones – including while driving. It is unsafe to take your eyes off the road for even a second, but every time teens text, they look down at their phones for at least five seconds, according to International Business Times.
It is a deadly behavior. Talking on the phone and texting while driving increases the risk of crashing by four times, according to the National Safety Council. Other factors that contribute to the alarming number teen auto accidents include:
- Driving distractedly, e.g., talking with passengers, eating, grooming, selecting music, and daydreaming
- Driving at night
- Speeding and reckless driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and other substances (Nearly 30 percent of all teen drivers killed in auto crashes in 2012 had alcohol in their bloodstream, according to the NHTSA.)
How can I keep my teen driver safe?
It is your duty as a parent to ensure your teen has the knowledge and skills to drive safely before sending her off into the world. Simply talking to your teen about the dangers and making safe driving a family priority will go a long way to keep your child safe. Below are some tips to promote safe driving with your teen.
Create and enforce rules for driving.
No phones, no drinking, wearing your seat belt, sticking to curfew, and never driving while tired are just a few rules to start. Lay down the consequences if she disobeys, too.
You can also have your teen sign a parent-teen agreement to drive the concept home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent comprehensive agreement you can download and print.
Practice safe driving skills with your teen.
Do not solely rely on driver’s ed classes to ready your teen for the road. Get a lot of road time after she earns her permit and teach her the skills she needs. The more practice the better.
You can use the lessons in Pennsylvania’s DOT’s The Parents’ Supervised Driving Program guide to give you ideas on how to better train your teen. “It takes years to perfect any skill – athletic, artistic, or otherwise – and it also takes years to be a truly good driver… A driver’s license makes [teens] a driver. Experience makes them good drivers,” the DOT explains.
Prohibit phones while driving.
Make it a family rule: no using the phone while driving. Teach you teen to disable it or put it in airplane mode every time she gets in the car. You can also have them use an app that locks texting functions, such as DriveMode, TextBuster, or DriveScribe. Moreover, do not forget to set a good example for your teen; no phone for you while driving either.
Talk about the dangers of driving under the influence.
Many teens binge drink and hide illicit drug use from their parents. Even if you do not think your teen is prone to drinking or using recreational drugs, talk about the risks of driving while intoxicated and explain that she is never to ride with someone who is intoxicated. Set ground rules and take away the keys if she does not comply.
Take a local driver training course together.
There are both basic and refresher courses available. The courses go over a lot of helpful material and help young drivers understand many dangers they probably had not considered. Not only will your teen learn new skills, but she will also see how serious you are about safe driving. Call your local DMV for resources.
Participate in National Youth Traffic Safety Month.
Read over some of the ideas in this pamphlet to help you and your teen create a driving pledge and to give you some activism project ideas.
Scare them with PSAs.
There is a lot to be said for public service announcements; they are intriguing, impactful, memorable, and goosebump-inducing.
You can do a Google or YouTube search for PSAs for teen drivers, check out WhatDoYouConsiderLethal.com, or peruse the videos on Impact Teen Drivers. Here are a few to start: Don’t Text and Drive, Ashton Kutcher’s PSA, and PSA Central’s Party Foul.
Make use of free resources for parents.
There are tons of freely available ideas, campaigns, and resources sponsored by non-profits, schools, and insurance companies. Scan through them and use whatever you find helpful.
What if my teen has sustained injuries in an accident?
If your teen was involved in an accident either as a passenger or a driver, you will want to look into all of the legal ramifications and compensation options that might be available. For help with teen auto accidents in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, call the car accident attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC. Contact us today at 215-642-2335 for a free, no-obligation consultation.