When your teenager gets his or her driver’s license, it is important to be sure that your young driver is well prepared to avoid a teen car accident. Understanding the risks associated with teen driving is the first step to preventing car crashes. According to a fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in our country, and many of these collisions are preventable.
To give you a sense of the scope of the problem, in 2015 more than 2,300 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 sustained fatal injuries in car crashes. That same year, more than 221,300 teens required treatment in hospital emergency rooms for injuries they sustained in car collisions. Each day, on average, six teenagers suffer fatal injuries in car accidents.
What are some other tips for ensuring that your teen becomes a safe driver?
Safety Tips for Teenage Drivers
Given that parents play a major role in the lives of their teenage children, it should not come as a surprise that parents can have a big role in teaching their teens to be better drivers. Teens need to commit to learning about safe driving habits for themselves as well. The safe driving habits they learn should follow them into adulthood and help them prevent dangerous car accidents now and in the future.
- Get as much hands-on driving experience as you can: For a teenage driver to gain experience behind the wheel, it is important to have a supportive parent in the passenger seat. The AAA Foundation emphasizes that teens should commit to spending several hours each week practicing their driving skills and studying for the driving test. This requires involvement from parents, who should take part in several hours of driving practice with their teens.
- Accept constructive criticism and feedback from driving instructors and/or parents: It is important for teen drivers to recognize that driving, like any other new activity, has a learning curve. Teens should accept constructive criticism while learning to become better drivers.
- Remain patient: It is not easy to learn to drive a motor vehicle. Teen drivers—just like adult drivers—can get into tricky situations involving heavy traffic and other issues. Teens should remain calm as they learn to navigate complicated driving situations, and parents (and instructors) must do the same. Leave for your destination early and never rush when driving. Avoid being late by preparing ahead of time to leave on time and account for potential holdups along the way.
- Follow traffic laws: Parents should set a good example to their teens by modeling good driver behavior. This means driving within the speed limit, never using a smartphone while behind the wheel, and always buckling up. It also means avoiding all types of aggressive driving behavior such as shouting at other drivers, making gestures, tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic.
- Do not ride with other teen passengers: Distracted driving involves more than just cell phones. Teen drivers should avoid carrying other teens in the car as passengers. Having friends in the car can be a distraction to an inexperienced driver and increase the risk of a serious accident. Passengers, no matter the age, should never be a distraction to a driver. If a person is a distraction, the teen should avoid driving with the passenger in the future.
- Abide by your agreement: Many families make a “parent-teen driving agreement” with their teenage kids, according to AAA. It is important for parents and teens alike to abide by this document. It can involve agreements about nighttime driving, driving under certain weather conditions, driving on certain types of roads, driving with other teenagers in the car, checking in at home, obeying traffic laws, and avoiding risks like smartphone use.
- Be cautious of weather condition: Weather conditions will change the way your vehicle responds to the road. Wet roads will require a further stopping length and will require you to drive slower and maintain greater distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Snow and ice will also cause vehicles to lose traction. Drivers that must go on the roadways in these conditions should drop their speed as well as accelerate and brake slowly. Start braking earlier than normal to ensure that the vehicle can come to a complete stop. Stopping time is increased to 8 – 10 seconds in icy conditions.
- Drive appropriately on hills: Hills are difficult to maneuver, and you must take proper measures to navigate hills safely. If the weather is wet or the roads are icy, you should avoid stopping on a hill whenever possible and safe. Apply the brake when going down hills to avoid fast acceleration and possible speed limit violations. Accelerate early when going up a hill if your car isn’t powerful enough to make it up the hill from a complete stop.
- Limit distracted driving: Cell phones and text messages keep teens connected at all times. Break the temptation of distracted driving by putting your cell phone away or shutting it off while driving. Teens that cannot control their usage while driving can have apps installed that will shut the phone off or turn it on silent when the user exceeds a specified speed limit. Apps can be used along with parental controls that notify parents of a teen’s distracted driving habits.
Drivers must maintain their vehicles and ensure that when they get behind the wheel of the car, the vehicle can operate properly. Tire inspections, mirror adjustments and seat adjustments are a requirement before entering a roadway. Teens should follow a routine maintenance plan for their automobile to ensure that the auto is able to stop, accelerate and handle properly.
When parents model good driving behavior, and teens put in the time, energy, and patience necessary to become safe drivers, we can lower the risk of teen car accidents.