Any parent who has welcomed a new driver to the family knows that a teen’s excitement is balanced by their parent’s anxiety. While teen drivers almost never cause accidents while someone is supervising their driving, teens in their first six months of driving have one of the highest crash rates of any group. If that isn’t scary enough, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for 15 to 18 year olds.
When this knowledge sinks in, parents often go from being grateful for having another driver in the family to worrying whether they’ve done enough to prepare their child for the responsibility of driving. If you’ve got a teenage driver in the family, read on to learn why teen drivers are so high risk and what you can do to help keep teens safe on the road.
What Are The Risk Factors For Teenage Drivers?
First and foremost, teens’ lack of experience behind the wheel means that young drivers are less equipped to deal with the hazards they encounter. Unfortunately, the only way to get experience is to spend time driving. While they are still learning the crucial skills necessary to be a safe driver, teen drivers are more likely to be affected by the following risk factors on the road.
RESOURCE: Teen Driving and the Bottom Line
Read for more in-depth information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Simply put, teens are more likely to drive fast and far less likely to know what to do when something goes wrong. Teen driver statistics show that speed is a factor in 32% of fatal teen crashes.
Cell Phone Use While Driving
Although teens texting and driving makes a crash 23 times more likely, new drivers still don’t want to put down their phones when they are behind the wheel.
Cell phones aren’t the only problem. Distracted driving comes in all forms, whether a teen is trying to eat breakfast on the way to class, change the radio station, or look at a passenger who is talking to them. Teen drivers are 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky driving behavior while a passenger is in the car.
Anyone who has watched a teen sleep in until the afternoon hours knows that teenagers are tired. In addition to the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel, driving while drowsy can increase reaction time and make it more difficult for new drivers to appreciate the dangers of the road.
Seat Belt Use
Whether it’s inattentiveness or feeling invincible, teen drivers are less likely to wear their seat belts. This simple action can save lives and teen driver statistics show that seat belts were not used in 58% of fatal teen accidents.
Drugs and Alcohol
Although many states have a zero tolerance policy for teenagers who use drugs or alcohol and get behind the wheel, almost one in five teenage driving fatalities involved a driver who was using alcohol.
What Can Parents Do To Encourage Safe Driving For Teens?
Teen driver statistics can be a scary wake-up call for parents. Despite your best efforts, once you hand your teen the keys they will be on their own and it will be up to them to make the right calls behind the wheel. There is no substitute for good judgment, but there are several actions parents can take to help new drivers understand the importance of caution on the road.
Have a conversation with your child about teen driver safety. Talking to a new driver early and often can help them understand why it is so important to follow the rules of the road. During this conversation you will want to address the normal problems they will expect to face on the road like weather conditions or aggressive drivers, but also some of the unexpected problems while peer pressure and distracted driving.
This conversation is a good time to remind your new driver of zero tolerance policies for alcohol and drug use, and to talk about how even over the counter medications can impact your ability to react to hazards in a split second.
RESOURCE: Teen Driving Contract
Use this contract to guide a conversation about safe driving with your teen.
Know your state’s Graduated Drivers License (“GDL”) Laws.
All fifty states have enacted GDL laws to give new drivers a chance to build up their skills. These laws have three tiers, with new drivers using a learner’s permit to driver with supervision. Upon turning sixteen and meeting other requirements like completing driver’s education, the teen will get a provisional license. This license allows them to drive without supervision, but limits the number of passengers and hours that a teen may drive. Finally, after completing their provisional requirements the driver will acquire a full driving license.
These laws are designed to address some of the main causes of teen driving accidents, including driving at night and distracted driving. Your state’s GDL requirements should be an important component of the rules you set for your teen driver.
Reconsider the new car.
While allowing your teen driver to take the keys to your main transportation might sound like a risk, studies have shown that teens are far more likely to drive safely when they are in the family car as opposed to their own ride. If you do get your teen a vehicle, consider something older with a focus on safety features instead of the sporty, newer model.
Enroll your teen in driver’s education.
Most states require these courses before a driver can get a provisional license. These courses will cover the rules of the road and the wide variety of hazards new drivers will face. Not only do they give teens a chance to learn these rules in a hands on environment, teens will also have the chance to hear this important information from someone besides their parents.
Consider using an app to monitor your teen’s driving.
There are a number of devices and apps on the market that allow parents to check on their teenage driver. Not only can parents use GPS to review where their child has driven, but some apps even show parents when and where the driver was engaging in risky behavior, such as speeding, allowing parents the important opportunity to make these teachable moments for new drivers.
Set clear consequences.
Enforcing the rules isn’t always fun, especially when it means you have to become a shuttle driver for your teen after he or she has broken a driving rule. However, setting consequences is a clear way to show your teen driver that you mean business. Be sure to explain again that the rules aren’t just for your sake, they are to protect everyone on the road. Consider putting your expectations and consequences in writing when your teen starts to drive so that everyone is on the same page.
Be a good example.
Parents frequently overlook one of the most basic and impactful things they can do to help their teen become a safe driver. Studies show that parents often fail to follow the rules they expect their teen to be learning and will even justify their behavior when a teen asks them to stop. But if you follow the rules you set for your teen, you are showing them that you aren’t above the law either and that these rules are not here to be annoying, but to keep everyone safe.
Have you or someone you love been injured in a teenaged driving accident?
If your teen was injured in an accident, or you were injured in an accident with a teenaged driver, contact us for a free case evaluation. We work on a contingency-fee basis. You may be eligible to file a claim for medical costs, emotional distress and further damages. Fill out our free case evaluation form to see if you are eligible for a claim. An experienced motor vehicle accident attorney at Morris Bart will assist you in the evaluation process. Initial consultations are free. We have office locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. Call us at 1-800-537-8185 today.