Written on Mar 10, 2015 11:27:00 AM
Top 4 Risks to Teen Driver Safety
Topics: driving safety
As a parent, one of the scariest transitions to make with your teenage son or daughter involves handing them the keys to your car, and watching them learn to drive (especially during that first year, which can be the most dangerous). Even if your child isn’t driving yet, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that 78% of teenage auto accident injuries were to passengers, and not drivers.
You’ve traversed the road and know what many dangers lie ahead for them; dangers you can’t protect them from any longer. You may also know that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for all 15- to 20-year-olds.”
While this is a startling statistic, staying educated on the top risks to teen drivers, and teaching your child strategies to improve safety, can help them prevent a crash that may injure them or end their lives. In this article, we are going to go over these risk factors and how you can look out for them to protect your teenage driver.
Not Wearing Seat Belts
It’s a fact: “teens have the lowest seat belt use of any group,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the number of teens unbelted has been gradually decreasing over time, an IIHS report shows that, for drivers aged 15 and 16, up to 45 and 47% respectively were not wearing seat belts in fatal crashes. The percentage of passenger victims in this age group is a staggering 48 and 51%, respectively.
Monitor your teens, and make sure you are reinforcing the idea of proper seat belt use. Oftentimes, they tend to use excuses such as they forgot, that it’s uncomfortable, or that no one else wears them and it’s not cool. Whatever excuses they try to make, don’t let them go on driving unbuckled; it can be the difference between getting whiplash and getting launched through the car windshield.
To build on these risks (as many of them are intertwined with one another), based on a 2012 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), “half of all fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers with three or more passengers are speeding-related.” Speeding can be just as deadly as not wearing a seat belt. Combine the two together, and you greatly increase the chances of a fatality.
Male drivers aged 15-20 make up 37% of drivers in fatal crashes, discovered in a 2012 report by the NHTSA. Speeding is not often an immediate concern when discussing safety with teen drivers (and any drivers for that matter), but it is especially important since the CDC’s web-based injury statistics query and reporting system (WISQARS) shows that teens are not able to recognize or process dangerous situations as readily as older drivers. By not having this developed sense of judgment, teenagers have a higher likelihood of not gauging depth perception to vehicles in front of them adequately.
Talk to your teenager about speeding, and how important it is to follow the limits of the road. After all, accidents can (and often do) happen close to home and on non-interstate roads.
In the same NHTSA report mentioned earlier, 28% of speeding drivers under 21 years-old had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher in fatal crashes. Of drivers aged 15-20, in 2012, 71% were killed after drinking and driving, and not wearing a seat belt. Alcohol poses an extreme risk to teen drivers, and teens that start drinking are "seven times more likely" to be in an alcohol-related crash according to the NHTSA.
This is not only tragic, but very preventable with the right education and awareness. It is the job of parents and police to enforce laws about underage drinking. It is no easy task to imbue this into teenagers, but if you start early and follow Graduated Licensing Systems (GDL), this will help place restrictions on new drivers such as curfews for nighttime driving. As their skills build, these restrictions are lifted and more privileges are allowed when safe driving is demonstrated.
It is obvious teenagers have an increased risk for becoming distracted; thus, combining driving and texting together is a recipe for disaster. A national Youth Risk Behavior survey showed “nearly half of all U.S. high school students aged 16 years or older text or email while driving.” The survey also demonstrated that students who texted were more likely to drive drunk and/or ride with a drunk driver.
Laws are being regulated in many states making texting and driving illegal. Talk with teens to make sure they check their phones before they leave somewhere, and don’t pick it up again until the car is stationary. An excuse like “my clock is on my phone” is not satisfactory, as there are digital clocks in almost every vehicle. To avoid heavy GPS usage, acquaint your teen with the area they will be driving so they don’t get lost and risk chance for further distractions.
There are a multitude of risks associated with teen drivers that make the road particularly hazardous, and pose an increased potential for crashes. Become educated on your options and communicate with your teenager on how to drive safely – no matter what the age is, driving shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is a privilege, and should be addressed as such. This will help your teen value the risks that are present, and allow them to make the right choices.