Learning to drive and getting your Drivers License is a right of passage many teenagers take on the path to becoming independent. While having another driver in the home can be an added convenience for carpooling to and from school or running errands, many parents also feel concern over how safe their teen truly is behind the wheel.
When you consider that the fatality rate for vehicular crashes involving teens ages 16-19 is 3 times greater than that of a driver over the age of 20, it’s not hard to understand their concern is more than valid. Teen drivers actually driver far less than any of their driving counterparts, other than the elderly, but their number of car crashes and resulting deaths of teens is disproportionate high. In fact, vehicle fatalities are the #1 cause of deaths in teens. But all is not lost. Arming yourself and your young driver with a little bit of added knowledge and know-how could help give them the added protection they need as they venture out into the great wide open.
What You Need To Know
It is estimated that 9 people are killed and 1,000 injured each day in the USA alone in vehicular accidents that are attributed to distracted driving. In fact, Distracted Driving is one of the leading causes of accidents and only continues to grow more rapidly each year. But that number skyrockets when it comes to teens and lands with 58% of teen accidents involving distracted driving.
Distracted Driving breaks down into 3 different categories:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road while driving
- Mental – taking your mind off driving
- Physical – taking your hands off the wheel
Reading or sending a text message takes the driver’s eyes off the road for about 5 seconds and in this time, their vehicle can travel the distance of a football. Yet, in recent years, texting while driving has become an even bigger problem. This is because the act of texting causes a driver to be distracted by all 3 categories simultaneously… visually, mentally and physically. This perfect storm has resulted in strict laws prohibiting drivers from texting while behind the wheel but it hasn’t solved the problem.
But smartphones aren’t the only distraction facing teenagers behind the wheel. Another common issue for young drivers is having other teens in the vehicle with them. In a recent study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm verified what has been known for some time… the increase of peer passengers in a vehicle with a teen driver increases the risk of an accident occuring. They found that both male and female drivers were more likely to be distracted with 71% of males and 47% of females admitted they were distracted directly by the actions of their young passengers, regardless if the distractions were unintentional or not. Furthermore, male drivers were 6 times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver and more than twice as likely to drive aggressively just before a crash, as compared to males driving alone.
What You Can Do
- Play it safe – Limit the number of passengers while your teen is behind the wheel for the first year to avoid unnecessary distractions and help your driver stay focused on the rules of the road and navigating their vehicle.
- Starts at home – Realizing that teens whose parents drove distracted are 4 times more likely to do the same, be a good example of driving without distractions. Avoid using your cell phone for calls or texts and do not eat while behind the wheel.
- Everybody buckle up – Set a good example by buckling up and insisting that no matter where your teen is sitting, they do the same everytime they get in the vehicle for any distance.
- Zero Tolerance – Make a family rule that drinking and driving will not be tolerated. Have them pledge they will not partake in any substance that could impair them before getting behind the wheel and hold them to it. Inexperience with driving coupled with any substance that impairs their driving ability is a recipe for disaster. In addition to being illegal, there really is no safe amount of alcohol your teen can drink before getting behind the wheel of an automobile.
- Detour distractions – Talk to your teen about the dangers of distracted driving and how to avoid them like putting their cell phone in a bag or purse in the backseat or safely in the glove box where it can not tempt them to just ‘take a peek’ at a text or check a notification are good ideas.
- Get an app – There are many apps that can share driver information with parents so you can keep a lookout for your teen driver even when you’re not there. Features may include notifying you of driving above preset limits, when they have left or arrived at predetermined destinations or even mute calls or notifications on their phone while they’re behind the wheel.
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