If you have a teen who will be getting a driver’s license this year, take the time to share safe driving tips with him or her to help your teen avoid many of the risks that come with operating a vehicle. It’s plain to see how important this is when you consider the statistics on teen driving, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:
- About 66 percent of those killed or injured in a car crash that involved a teen behind the wheel are people other than the teen, such as passengers, pedestrians, and drivers of other vehicles.
- Even with a decline over the last decade in the number of driver fatalities of 15- to 18-year-olds, this group remains twice as likely to be in a fatal accident as adults.
- Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among 15- to 18-year-olds in the nation.
While all of the risks of driving cannot be avoided, you can help your teen develop good driving habits. Go over the following tips together, and make it a point to review them regularly.
Always use a seat belt.
Nearly two-thirds of teenaged passengers who die in car accidents were not wearing seat belts. A no-exceptions rule for seat belt use should be followed by your teen, and he or she should refuse to carry any passengers who aren’t buckled up. Using a seat belt isn’t just the law—it’s one of the absolute most effective ways to drastically lower the chance of injury or death in a motor vehicle accident.
According to AAA, statistics show that teen drivers are more likely to have a car crash if they are using a mobile phone or have teen passengers in the vehicle with them. Research also shows that instead of talking on the phone in the moments before a crash, teens are looking down at their phones. Even though distracting driving laws are being strengthened across the country, stress the critical importance of this rule to your teen driver: Never use the phone for calls, texting, social media or any other activity while behind the wheel.
Follow at a safe distance.
Rear-end crashes are common among teens. This can be due to distracted driving, but following too closely is often a factor. Your teen should form the habit of following the three-second rule: when road conditions are good and it’s daytime, drivers should make sure there are three seconds between themselves and the car in front of them. If conditions are bad—it’s dark, foggy or raining heavily—the timing should be six or even nine seconds.
Don’t drive drowsy.
According to statistics cited by the NHTSA, drowsy driving took more than 800 lives in 2016 and research suggests that it may have been a contributing factor in even more crashes with injuries or deaths. Teens are notorious for running hard on little sleep, but drowsiness puts them at greater risk on the road by compromising attention, reaction time, decision-making and even judgment. Do what you can to ensure your teen driver gets adequate sleep and limit nighttime driving.
Maintain a safe speed.
Ignoring this basic safety rule can come at a great cost. Accidents at higher speeds can result in higher impacts to drivers and occupants, and that increases the chances of serious or fatal injuries. Teens quickly discover that driving is fun and driving fast can be even more fun, but the momentary thrill is never worth it.
More ways to encourage safe driving and prevent car accidents
In addition to making sure your teen driver understands the basics above, there’s more you can do to reinforce them by taking these steps:
- If your teen has very little driving time under his belt, make him wait until he’s older and more experienced before allowing him to have other teen passengers in the car. According to AAA, about 15 percent of crashes involving teen drivers occur when the drivers are interacting with their young passengers.
- Considering limiting your teen to daylight-only driving. Driving in the dark, especially in bad weather or when road conditions are poor, should be restricted until your teen has had a great deal of supervised driving practice.
- Make a rule to have your teen driver check in with a parent or other responsible adult each and every time she drives. You should know where your teen is going and when she’s expected to return.
- Define for your teen where it’s permissible to drive. Perhaps highways or certain roads should be off limits, or you don’t want your teen to drive in unpopulated areas where help may not be readily available. If your teen needs to drive herself to a job or school, determine the safest route according to her driving experience and skill level.
- Formalize the “rules of the road” with your teen by using a contract. Two excellent resources are the AAA’s StartSmart Parent-Teen Driving Agreement and the Centers for Disease Control’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. Both will help you clearly establish the rules (and the consequences for breaking them).
- Consider using technology to help your teen establish better driving habits. A number of automakers include systems in their cars that can track everything from the car’s location on a real-time map to service needs such as tire rotation. Aftermarket manufacturers also offer options, including systems that send alerts when a driver goes over a speed limit or a geographic boundary that you’ve preset. Using GPS or other technology to keep tabs on your teen driver may seem like an invasion of privacy, but the benefits may outweigh the arguments. As U.S. News & World Report notes in its article on The Best Systems to Monitor Your Teen’s Driving, you can remind your teen that simply allowing them to drive your car is a significant act of trust.
- Speaking of technology, apps are available to minimize distracted driving. Verizon Wireless has a handy list of apps that block texting while driving for both Android and iOS. Depending upon the particular app, features include the ability to block both the sending or receiving of texts, disable access to the phone’s camera, and send alerts to a parent or guardian if the driver turns off the app on the road.
- One of the most important and influential things you can do to help your teen become a safe driver is to set a good example. It may not seem that your teen sees you as a role model sometimes, but he’s watching and taking cues from you. If you wear a seat belt every time you drive and make passengers wear theirs, your young driver is likely to do the same; if you pull off the road to make a call or return a text, he may think about doing that, too. Model excellent driving habits every time you’re behind the wheel as, of course, we all should!
Additional advice on teen driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers additional good advice on safer teen driving:
Discuss the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Even when not under the influence, beginning drivers don’t have the experience, skills or maturity to drive like an adult, and this is clearly proven by statistics. Adding impairment to an already potentially dangerous situation makes matters much worse. Aside from the legality of drinking when under the age of 21, drinking and driving is deadly. As the NHTSA so aptly puts it, the only acceptable blood alcohol concentration for a teen is .00.
Know your state’s graduated driver licensing laws. Every state in the U.S. has a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system that’s intended to limit high-risk driving for new drivers and give them time to gain experience on the road. Most of these systems are divided into three stages:
- The Learner Stage—supervised driving that culminating in a driving test
- The Intermediate Stage—unsupervised but limited driving in high-risk situations
- The Full Privilege Stage—the standard driver’s license privileges
In Florida, the GDL system dictates these restrictions for teens and other novice drivers:
- Learner: Minimum age of 15; 50 required supervised driving hours and 10 night hours; a minimum duration of 12 months
- Intermediate: Minimum age of 16; nighttime restrictions between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. for 16-year-olds and between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. for 17-year olds.
- Full Privilege: Minimum age of 18
Don’t count on driver’s education classes alone. Driver’s education courses teach valuable lessons about traffic safety and road awareness, and all new Florida drivers must complete the course in order to be eligible for a learner’s permit. Time in the classroom, however, is no substitute for—and should be augmented by—supervised driving time and your involvement with your teen’s driving safety. Keep the conversation about the importance of safe driving going and be consistent in enforcing the rules.
Has your teen had an auto accident? Contact us for a free consultation.
We hope that you will never need the services of our car accident lawyers because your teen has had a car crash caused by someone else’s negligence, but accidents can and do happen. We offer free, no-obligation consultants to help you determine if you have a case, and we are always ready to take your call. Contact us at 904-251-1111 or 800-251-1111 or complete the form at the top of the page.