Traffic crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States and the evidence of this often seen on the news is heartbreaking:
- This 18-year-old high school senior from Garrett, Indiana was not wearing a seat belt when she lost control of her car and slammed into two utility poles and was pronounced dead at the scene.
- A 15-year-old from Iowa lost his life and injured his 15-year-old passenger, after they were ejected from their vehicle while attempting to catch air under the vehicle on the top of a hill.
- Unrestrained at the time, an 18-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri was killed when he hit the back of a tractor-trailer that slowed down in front of him.
These are real kids, with real families left behind…and it’s happening every day in this country. We owe it to our children and society to do better, because the rate of teen crashes should be unacceptable to us all. Recent research by AAAFTS found that teen drivers are 50% more likely to crash in the first month of having a license than they are after a full year of experience and most crashes tend to involve three common mistakes – failure to reduce speed, inattention, and failure to yield. During the upcoming Teen Driver Safety Week (October 16 – 22) make teaching your child to drive safely and responsibly a priority. Talk with them. Drive with them. Lead by example when you drive, because they are watching and modeling you, even if they aren’t old enough to drive yet.
Driving comes with a wealth of dangers no matter who is behind the wheel, but proper education and experience in varied, real-world driving scenarios are the keys to combating those dangers. Parental involvement is essential for exposing teens to different scenarios and the development of good driving habits, even after the law allows teens to drive solo.
Parents are best positioned to educate young drivers and ultimately save lives. That’s because, no matter what your kids may lead you to believe, parents remain the biggest influence on teens. Here’s what AAA suggests:
- Practice, practice, practice: Ensure that basic skills are mastered and to introduce varied driving conditions (snow, heavy traffic, rural roads) with an experienced driver in the passenger seat.
- Keep passengers out: Teen drivers’ crash risks multiply with teenage passengers in the vehicle. Set limits and enforce them consistently.
- Limit night driving: Reduced visibility makes night driving riskier for inexperienced teens. Allow new teen drivers to drive at night only if truly necessary or to practice with a parent.
- Keep setting rules: Parents can – and should – set and enforce rules above and beyond their state laws. In addition to night and passenger limits, set rules for inclement weather, highways, cities, or other driving conditions in which a teen has not gained enough experience. Find a parent-teen driving agreement on TeenDriving.AAA.com that can help.
Finally, help us spread the word. Talk to others in your community about teen driver safety and forward on this information through your social networks – it just might save the life of a teen.