What You Need to Know About Teen Drivers
So your teen is driving age or getting close. Do you know the dangers and what data suggests are the best ways to prevent fatal crashes? Here are the key dangers for teen drivers, as well as what has been shown to lower their risk of being killed or injured in a motor vehicle accident.
The Data is Frightening
Between 2016 & 2018:
- Nearly 2,500 teens died in automobile accidents.
- Almost 300,000 were treated for injuries related to automobile accidents.
- 16-19-year olds are 3 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
- Male teens are two times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
- The first month of having a license is the riskiest for teens in terms of fatal accidents, and 16-17-year olds are at more risk than older teens.
- Teens are less likely to appreciate the danger of particular driving situations and often leave less space than required between vehicles or make errors that cause crashes.
- When measured against drivers of all other age groups, teens who have been drinking have a higher risk of fatality, even when they have the same blood alcohol concentration.
- Fifty-eight percent of teen drivers killed in automobile accidents were not wearing a seatbelt.
What You Can Do
Driving is generally a necessity that cannot be avoided, and while the information shared earlier is troubling, there is also data that shows ways to mitigate the risks of teen driving.
- Be Aware
Know the risk factors for teen automobile crashes. The most significant factors are: inexperience, driving with other teens, driving at night, not wearing seatbelts, driving distracted (hello, cell phones!), driving while sleepy, driving recklessly, and driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Take care in assessing how well your teen can handle each of these factors and discuss them frequently.
- Encourage 100% Seat Belt Use
Find out whether your state has primary or secondary seat belt laws. Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement to pull over drivers for only violating a seat belt law. Secondary seat belt laws allow law enforcement to only fine drivers for seat belt use if they have been pulled over for some other driving behavior. Primary seat belt law enforcement increases seat belt use by over 10 percentage points on average.
Also, model good seat belt use behavior for your teen. Wearing seat belts can reduce automobile fatalities drastically.
3. Discourage Use of Alcohol
Teens should refrain from driving if they have had any amount of alcoholic beverage. All states enforce a no-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21. Teach your teen how to choose wise alternatives to driving if they have had alcohol.
- Take Advantage of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Systems
GDL systems vary from state-to-state, but all of them aim to reduce teen’s exposure to the risk factors listed above. Typically, GDL programs require longer learning stages, restrict driving at night and later hours, and prohibit the use of mobile devices and presence of other teen passengers.
Find out about your state’s GDL program by visiting the website of the agency responsible for issuing licenses (typically the Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Public Safety).
While teen drivers are at very real risk when they begin driving, employing smart strategies can reduce their risk significantly. Parental involvement in coaching teens to handle the responsibility of driving can tremendously reduce a teen’s risk of being involved in a serious automobile accident and provide some peace of mind as well.