What we want our Teen Drivers to Know
If you are a teen driver yourself or the parent of a teenage driver, this article is for you! Parents can be the strongest influence on your teen driver’s safety. Surveys have routinely shown that teens whose parents impose driving restrictions typically engage in less risky driving situations and are involved in fewer accidents. Parents who are committed to shaping their teen into a safe and capable driver experience way fewer headaches and stress and benefit from fewer accidents and tickets on the part of their teenager .While it is true that teen driver fatalities have declined significantly over the years, motor vehicle crashes still remain the leading cause of teen deaths.
Statistics show that in 2010, drivers between 16- 20 years of age were involved in almost two times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. Start conversations about the importance of safe driving with your teenager early. Talk to your kids about traffic safety often, before they are old enough to drive a car. Also, discuss with other parents of teens and compare notes— you can learn from other parents mistakes as well as their advice.
Be a good example to your teen while driving yourself. Set a positive standard – remember, they are watching you – don’t be lazy with things like turn signals etc. Start by modeling good habits any time you drive them anywhere, even before they begin to drive. One way is to turn off your cell phone or put it out of arms reach and resist the urge to answer the phone while driving with your children. And of course it should go without saying – never read a text or respond to a text while driving!
When your teenager begins driving, set ground rules and outline the consequences clearly for breaking them in a Parent-Teen Driving Contract. Keep the contract in the car or by the exit door of your house or garage. Include the important rules and be sure your child understands them. Examples can include: Alcohol: Absolutely No Alcohol (very scary fact: teen drivers between 15 – 20 years old are at far greater risk of dying in a crash involving alcohol than the rest of us, even though they cannot legally buy it or consume it), Seat Belts: Always Buckle Up! (another very scary fact: of the young (15-20) passenger vehicle drivers who had been drinking and were killed in crashes during 2010, 71 % were unrestrained – meaning not wearing seat belst! unbelievable!, Electronic Devices: No Talking or Texting While Driving, Curfew: Have the Car in the Driveway by (designated time), Passengers: No More Than One Child passenger at All Times, Use of nothing that impairs driving abilities(could be illicit drugs or even over the counter & prescribed medications) .
If you are a teen driver reading this, you need to know if you are fortunate enough to survive a car accident while you have been drinking alcohol or using drugs, you will have to face the consequences of breaking the law. Your parents cannot help you. That includes being arrested and a trip to jail in a police car. The loss of your driver’s license will be the least of your worries. You will incur thousands of dollars in expenses including attorney fees, court costs, other fines, and dire insurance consequences. This crime could affect your entire life – including losing academic eligibility, college acceptance, and scholarship awards. As you can see, there is way more at risk than what can be gained from drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel. If you are a parent reading this, share this information with your teen driver so they know this is serious business and will reinforce what they learn in driving school.
Wearing seat belt should be automatic from the time our children are old enough to be out of a car seat. Make sure you set this standard by always wearing your own. Instill these rules early on so that by the time your child is 6 or 7 they automatically buckle up as soon as they enter anyone’s vehicle. These habits are then hard to break as a teenager and your teen won’t even realize it’s an option not to wear a seat belt. Seat belts are still the best way to protect themselves and their passengers in case of a crash. Also, by keeping a driver in an upright and secure position, seat belts increase a driver’s ability to maintain control of the vehicle in emergency situations. While we can’t predict outcomes, certainly the teens that weren’t buckled up that died in auto accidents over the years, may have survived had they been wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.
It is important to re-emphasize constantly the perils of using a cell phone at all while driving, not just texting. The facts are that no matter how experienced you are as a driver, talking on a cell phone while driving reduces your reaction time similar to that of a 70-year-old. Distracted driving greatly increases your chances of getting in an accident. Choose not to take that call – it can wait until you reach a safe destination and your car is in park.
Nearly 16% of all distracted driving crashes involve our youngest and most inexperienced drivers – those under 20. Young drivers report more crashes or near-crashes than older drivers. The reason texting is so dangerous is because it requires a driver to take their eyes off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel. Texting simultaneously involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction and is proven to be among the worst of all driver distractions. It might seem like no big deal, but typing or receiving a text while driving 55 mph is like driving the length of an entire football field while being blindfolded. You wouldn’t think about ever doing that would you?
Teach your children to be assertive and speak up if they are in a car where anyone, teenage driver or adult driver, are texting while driving or talking on a cell phone in rush hour traffic thus keeping their focus off the road. They have a right to look out for their own safety and so do you. This is difficult for most teenagers as they are the least likely of all ages to speak up when a driver is talking on a cell phone or texting.
Do your part to reduce the statistics! One such alarming statistic claims that 43 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Do your part to establish the rules outlined above and be prepared to revoke driving privileges when you know rules are being bent. Set clear expectations about your teen’s need to establish safe driving habits. Your house rules may need to be stronger than the laws, depending on your teen.
Limit night time driving with any new driver as the hours between 9 p.m. and midnight is when most nighttime fatal crashes of young drivers occur. In fact, states that have nighttime driving restrictions in place, have 60% fewer crashes during the restricted hours. Laws are not enough as we all know and you as a parent can make the difference. Explain to your teen that you are trying to protect them from high-risk nighttime driving, as they are up to four times more likely to get in an accident at night than they would be during the day.
Many states have the “No More Than One Passenger in the Car at All Times” rule for teenage drivers. Impress upon your child how important it is to obey this. Most teens are susceptible to peer pressure, which can lead to risk-taking. There is clear evidence that a rule like this needs to be in place. One study showed that teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with friends than they would if they were driving alone. To make matters even worse, the risk of a fatal accident goes up in direct proportion to the number of teenage friends in their car. In other words, the more teenagers all packed into one vehicle the more at risk they all are of something very serious occurring. interestingly enough, the opposite occurs with an adult driver in the car as a passenger. Novice drivers, teenagers between 15- 18 years of age, rarely get in car accidents while being supervised by adults. This changes drastically as soon as they are driving unsupervised. They then have the highest crash rates of all age groups during the first six months of unsupervised driving, even though they are then fully licensed.
Besides writing up a contract with your child, remind them that driving is a privilege, not a right and that it can be easily revoked. Talk to your young driver often and stick to your own rules. Explain the consequences if your teen receives a traffic ticket or is in an accident, even if it is not their fault. Even a not-at-fault accident can cause them to incur insurance penalties.
The good news? Remember parents: They won’t always be sweet sixteen! Someday in the not too distant future, they will evolve into responsible, mature and safe drivers!
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Akron resident Amy Friday says “Michael is dependable, hardworking and is quick to respond. He has been there for us when we needed him, especially when our daughter was in a car accident. He helped us and answered all of our questions in a timely manner.”
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