Next week marks National Teen Driver Safety Week, an annual event sponsored by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The week-long campaign is dedicated to raising awareness about teen driver safety in hopes of preventing teen injuries and deaths on the road. It's an important awareness campaign, given that the NHTSA reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15-18 years old) in the United States.
Earlier this year, a Governor's Highway Association/Ford study reported that speed plays a significant role in teen driver deaths. Other unsafe driving behaviors play a role, too. The NHTSA says in 2019, 45% of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died in crashes weren't wearing their seatbelt. Also in 2019, 16% of teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in deadly crashes had alcohol in their system and among teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes, 10% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
The NHTSA offers parents some rules of the road to discuss with your teen, below.
Here are some other things you can do to make a difference:
Use A Parent-Teen Driving Contract:
- You can use the contract that I recommend or create one of your own, but be sure to outline when your teen can and can’t drive or get in the car with another teen driver. This should be done as a family and taken seriously. Sit down; go over the contract line by line, without distractions. Everyone should have his or her cell phones off for this meeting. We have a great contract, written by an Austin, TX-area judge that listens to our show on our website. Click here for the teen driver contract
- Several automakers offer in-car monitoring to make sure that your teen isn’t driving too fast or out of your agreed-upon area. There are a lot of aftermarket systems out there too, that will text you if your child speeds, or leaves boundaries that you set. If your child knows you are watching, and there are consequences, he or she is more likely to adhere to the rules of the contract.
Check Vehicle Crash-Test Scores:
- If you’re considering buying your teen a new car, be sure to check the car’s crash-test scores before signing on the dotted line. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a small overlap front crash test that simulates a 40-mph collision with a tree or light pole.
Set A Good Example:
- As a parent, you know that your actions often speak louder than your words. So make sure your cell phone is put away whenever you’re behind the wheel, allowing you to set a good example for your teen driver.
Discourage Distracted Driving:
- If your child is going to have an accident, statistics tell us that distracted driving is the #1 cause of accidents. Limit the number of teenagers your child can have in the car. This is especially an issue for male teen drivers, they are twice as likely to have a wreck with just one passenger, and as more people get in the car, the odds of an accident skyrocket.
Don’t Be Naïve:
- We all think our children are little angels. Among male teen drivers from 16-19 years of age, recent stats show that of teen deaths in cars, 35% were speeding, and 25% were legally drunk. 55% of male and female passengers admitted to not wearing their seat belts when they were riding in another teen’s car.
Take it from me: This is a serious issue, the numbers bear out that as a parent, you should constantly speak to your teen driver about his or her driving habits. I have lost a child and I know the pain that I hope none of you ever know. Losing a child is an exclusive club that nobody wants to be a member of.
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