When parents watch their teen drive away in a vehicle for the first time, they often feel a sense of worry that only a protective parent can truly know. This instinct is, unfortunately, well-founded in the long list of statistics about teen drivers and traffic crashes. While there is a certain amount of risk for our teens that can never be entirely eliminated, it can dramatically be improved by raising awareness of the challenges posed by and to teen drivers – hence, National Teen Driver Safety Week.
This year, National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 16 to October 22, and it gives parents the perfect opportunity to broach a subject that might otherwise be relegated to the category of unwanted advice. In other words, it is the perfect excuse to drive home a few safety tips to your teen. Before we look at some of those safety tips, let’s examine why it is so important.
Teen Driving and Traffic Safety
- Teens lead all age groups for crash rates in the United States.
- In 2013, the latest year for which statistics on teen drivers have been assembled, around 963,000 teens were in police-reported crashes, including 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that, in 2013, teens were nearly three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as drivers ages 20 and over.
Distraction and Teen Drivers:
- According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distraction is a factor in around 60 percent of moderate-to-severe teen vehicle crashes.
- There are approximately 53,000 distracted driving-related crashes every year in Maryland.
- It is estimated that approximately 80 people are injured in Maryland distracted driving crashes every single day.
- 70 percent of teens admit to using apps while driving, while nearly half of all adults admit to texting while driving.
- AAA says that the biggest cause of teen distracted driving is actually the presence of extra passengers, followed by the use of a mobile device.
How Can We Address the Problem?
It’s clear that teens are more prone to distraction while behind the wheel than other age groups, but it is a problem that we all face on our roads. While some technologies might be introduced to address this problem (Chevrolet is offering the equivalent of parental controls on models of upcoming vehicles, and some states, such as New York, are exploring technology that will curb distraction or enable police to investigate distraction by cell phone use after a crash), it is important to remember that technology will do only so much to solve the problem. Parents must raise awareness and teach their children by example and through driving advice.
Tips to Give Your Teen Driver
- Put the smartphone out of reach (and mute it).
- Avoid any extra passengers. This is especially true for newly-licensed teens.
- Turn down the volume. This applies to music, podcasts, radio and chatter from passengers.
- Resist the temptation to do any distracting activity while driving – eating, grooming, talking on the phone, using mobile devices, etc.
- If you must do any of the aforementioned activities, pull over first.
Teenage drivers lack experience behind the wheel. The first few years of driving are key to establishing safe driving practices and building experience that will make them better drivers. Parents play a big role in shaping the habits of their teens. National Teen Driver Safety Week is important because it provides an opening in the discussion. If you’ve been wondering how to approach the subject, here’s your opportunity.