The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16 to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six teens ages 16 to 19 died every day in 2014 from injuries sustained during a motor vehicle accident.
Everyone that shares the road should be vigilant of risk factors that contribute to higher risk of injury. Parents especially should make it clear to teen drivers what those risk factors are, discuss how to mitigate risk, and support prevention at every opportunity.
Teen Risk Factors
If you have teen drivers, or know teen drivers, discuss these risk factors with them to help illustrate how they might mitigate these risks; not just for themselves, but also for the safety of other drivers on the road:
- Underestimating Dangerous Situations – Bad weather conditions, roadway construction, or poor nighttime visibility are all good reasons to slow down and exercise more caution than usual. However, teen drivers regularly underestimate the safety of these hazards, and often make critical decision errors that would not have been made by a more experienced driver.
- Speeding – Teens are notorious for speeding and shortening the distance between themselves and the driver in front of them. According to one study, the presence of a teen male passenger increases the likelihood of this dangerous behavior.
- Late Nights and Weekends – In 2014, half of all teen deaths caused by car accidents occurred between 3:00 p.m. and midnight, and more than half occurred on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
- Distracted Driving – Cell phones are great for parents that want to keep better track of where their teens are, but cell phones also pose new driving challenges, particularly for young drivers. Distracted driving is commonly a result of cell phone use while driving and is hazardous for everyone who shares the road.
- Seat Belt Use – Only 61% of teens report always wearing their seatbelt. Seat belt use has been proven to reduce death and injury by as much as 50% when worn. Buckling up could save a teen’s life in a serious accident.
- Male Drivers and Drinking – Male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 that were involved in a car crash in 2014 were speeding 35% of the time, and 24% had been drinking.
These are contributing risk factors for teen drivers and good talking points to discuss with them before they start driving unsupervised.
One of the first things you should discuss with a teen driver is seat belt use. In 2014, of the teen passengers that died, more than half were not wearing their seatbelt.
Even in states without primary seat belt laws, parents and guardians should advocate for seat belt use among teens. Seat belt use has been proven to reduce serious crash-related injuries by as much as 50 percent.
Drinking and driving is another serious threat to teen drivers. Anyone less than 21 years of age is subject to a zero tolerance rule. It is illegal for teens to drink alcohol, but it’s worse when they get behind a wheel and drive. This type of behavior should be prevented, even if it means admitting to illegal alcohol consumption.
Graduated driver licensing programs (GDL) are the best way for teen drivers to learn the skills they need to be successful on the road. All states have these programs, which provide more opportunities to practice driving, limit teen drivers from driving during unsafe conditions, and promote greater involvement from parents.
By discussing risk factors with teen drivers and practicing prevention tactics, everyone can help increase safety for all who share the road.
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