National Teen Driver Safety Week – Car Pro Commentary

For most parents and grandparents, a teenage driver can be a real source of anxiety. I hear from listeners all the time who are contemplating their teenage son’s or daughter’s first car. They always mention safety, and they want to make sure their teen’s first car is as safe as possible. Unfortunately, too many parents worry more about the particular car than making sure their child knows what to do in every situation. I hope everyone with a teen driver will concentrate on this topic during National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 14-20.
To fully grasp the topic and not bury our heads in the sand, understand the numbers. Too many parents think fatal accidents involving teens only happen to other people, but the truth is, in the United States a teenager is killed every two and half hours, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Car accidents are the #1 killer of teenagers 16-19 years of age. You simply can’t ignore these statistics, and that does not count all the teens who are seriously hurt, some with injuries that leave them paralyzed or scarred for life.
If you go by the numbers, your teenage driver will more than likely be in an accident. As a parent, you can only hope and pray that it is a minor one. The likelihood of young drivers being in a fatal accident is the greatest the first year. In fact, 16-year old drivers are three times more likely to die in a car crash than all other drivers. As a parent, your young driver needs to know this fact and you need to participate heavily in formulating their driver habits especially since we know that two-thirds of fatal teen crashes are caused by simple driver error.
I recommend you establish as many ground rules as you can and make a contract of sorts with your teens. Get them to make an agreement with you on their behavior while behind the wheel. I would review this document on a regular basis. For instance, limit the number of kids in the car at one time. The fact is, two or more occupants in a teen’s car triples the risk of a fatal crash. We also know that in 40% of teen fatal crashes, speeding was a factor. There should be a heavy penalty, in my opinion, if your teen gets a speeding ticket, in hopes of discouraging this behavior.
You must also address driver distraction with your teen driver. They really have no conception of how fast a wreck can happen. They will mess with the radio, text while driving, read emails, dial their phones, answer their phones, and a host of other things that take their eyes off the road. As we know, it only takes a split second for something really tragic to happen.
This may surprise you too, but there is a huge risk if your child is an occupant in another teen’s car. Two-thirds of fatalities involving occupants in teen’s cars are due to them not wearing their seatbelts. Just because they buckle up when they are with you, doesn’t mean they do that when they are not with you.
As a parent, you should set a good example. A very recent study that I talked about on the air said 90% of teenagers said they had seen their parents talk on the phone while driving, and 59% said they observed a parent texting and driving. The study showed this made teens much more likely to also use their phone while driving.
Lastly, your little angel could drink and drive, or be a passenger in a car after the driver has been drinking. An inexperienced driver who has been drinking is a fatal accident waiting to happen.
I write this article not to scare you, but to hopefully spare you from the heartache of your child being in a horrible accident. Have a plan, talk to your teens about these things. Remember back to the things you did as a young driver. Take this opportunity during Teen Driver Safety Week to have open and honest dialogue with your teens to keep them from being a statistic.

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