October 21st – 27th is National Teen Driver Safety Week. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States – ahead of all other types of injury, disease, or violence.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teen drivers, compared to all other drivers, are involved in three times the number of fatal car accidents in the U.S. Drivers ages 15-20 are among the most vulnerable to car accidents resulting in death due to a number of reasons. Teens are: inexperienced drivers, easily distracted, more likely to drive under the influence, more likely to not wear seat belts, and more.
National Teen Driver Safety Week is observed every third week of October to remind parents and teens to have conversations on the basic rules on how to drive safely.
Parents are encouraged to address things like drinking and driving, always wearing seat belts, avoiding distractions like texting, no driving when sleepy or drowsy, speeding, being mindful of passengers, and not having too many people in a car at once.
Teen Driving Statistics
In 2016, 2,082 teen drivers were involved in fatal car crashes. Speeding was a factor in 31%, while alcohol was a factor in 20% those fatal crashes. Over half the number of teens that were inside a vehicle during a fatal car crash did not wear their seatbelts. Moreover, 803 lives were lost due to drowsy driving behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is a big problem among teens. One in three teens confesses to texting while driving, which makes their risk or crashing 23 times more likely. Other forms of distracted driving include eating or drinking, applying makeup, changing the music/radio, etc. Also, other passengers can also serve as distractions to drivers. The more teens there are in a car, the higher the risk of a fatal car crash. Researchers found that teen drivers are three times more likely to engage in risky behaviors while driving if multiple passengers are in their vehicle versus driving alone.
Safe Driving Strategies
NHTSA researchers developed a few strategies to increase safe driving amongst teens which involve increasing the use of seat belts, implementing a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program, and reducing teen access to alcohol and increasing parental responsibility. Different states have different laws, so it’s important to learn about your state’s GDL laws as well as its distracted driving laws.
Parents Are the Greatest Influencers
Parents are the number one examples for teens as they learn to drive. If teens see that their parents follow traffic laws, they too will likely follow your lead.
A study by the NHTSA found that 41% of teens found their parents to exhibit unsafe behaviors while driving (i.e. texting and driving) even after their kids have asked them to stop. In addition, 28% of teens claim their parents justify their unsafe behaviors.
Parents should do their best to show their kids how to manage speed, reduce distractions, and how to scan the road and pay attention to their surroundings. Along with setting the standard through your behavior, parents should have conversations about driving early and often and set the ground rules before your teen starts driving on their own.
Do Your Part to Encourage Safe Driving Habits
There are too many young lives at risk on our roads, and we cannot afford to lose any more young people to fatal car accidents. While teens see driving on their own as a source of freedom, we must remind them to be vigilant and safe while on the road. No distraction is worth it while driving.
Parents and teens can find useful resources on rules for the road on trafficsafetymarketing.gov.