According to a recent report by the National Safety Council, motor vehicle fatalities are up 6% from 2015. And when it comes to teens in the United States, motor vehicle crashes stand as the leading cause of death. How can we improve the safety of our youngest drivers? Here are some tips to help your teens navigate the roads safely and soundly.
Take concrete steps to avoid distracted driving
Teens are especially susceptible to distractions that could affect their driving abilities. In fact, a recent study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) found that 67 percent of high school seniors admit to using apps while driving. Parents of teen drivers need to have a conversation about the risks they face engaging in distracted behaviors. Encourage your teen drive to turn the phone off while driving, or let a passenger hold it. Every driver in the family should take a pledge and commit to safe, non-distracted driving. There are also a number of pay-for-service apps that help monitor teen driver activities or shut down cellphone use while driving.
Remind your teen driver that seatbelts are lifesavers
Here’s yet another sad fact: Of the teens (aged 16-19) who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2016, at least 48% were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Research proves that seat belts save lives by reducing serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half … and yet out of every driving demographic, teens are the least likely to buckle up. Talk with your teen about the importance of seat belts, while also noting the fact that, in most states (32), it’s against the law to ride without a seatbelt.
Keep the conversation going driving while impaired
According to the CDC, nearly 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes each day due to an alcohol-impaired driver. The Liberty Mutual/SADD Teen Driving Report also noted that one in five teens admit driving under the influence of marijuana while one in four teens say they would take a ride from a driver who was high on marijuana or prescription drugs. What is the parent of a teen driver to do?
- Set clear guidelines by driving home two clear rules: NEVER ever drink/use and drive; NEVER get into a car with a driver who has been drinking/using.
- Encourage your teen to sign a contract to never drink and drive with the free, downloadable online contract.
- Promise that you’ll pick your teen with no questions asked … and stick to your promise.
Make sure your teen has plenty of driving practice under her belt.
Driving, like other complex skills, takes plenty of practice to be learned well. Teenagers’ lack of driving experience, together with risk-taking behavior, puts them at risk for crashes. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration offers a number of helpful fact sheets geared towards, new teen drivers, with topics such as Efficient Steering Techniques, Blindzones, and Perception.