The month of May is Teen Driving Awareness Month.
As a former teen driver who recalls at least a couple of dangerous situations where I was driving and now as a personal injury attorney who sees that the at-fault driver who caused a car crash often seems to be a person in their teens- I do not find it surprising when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a headline on their Teen Driving page that reads Crashes Are Still the Leading Cause of Teen Deaths.
According to the NHTSA, 3,255 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2017 which is a heartbreaking statistic.
The Main Causes of Teen Car Crashes
Most people would be able to guess the main causes of teen car crashes.
The main irresponsible factors according to NHTSA include;
- Alcohol: " Data shows 16% of 15- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 had been drinking."
- No Seatbelts: "In 2018, 45% of teen drivers who died were unbuckled. Even more troubling, when the teen driver involved in the fatal crash was unbuckled, nine out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled."
- Cell-Phones: "Research has found that dialing a phone number while driving increases your teen's risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times."
Other Factors of Teen Car Crashes
Teens also have several other factors that make them even more vulnerable to car accidents.
Some factors include;
- Lack of practice
- Little experience & skills
- Tendency to speed
- Distracted by friends in the car
How to Help Improve Teen Driving Safety
The Graduated Driver Licensing system is a great resource for parents of teen drivers. The licensing system aims to limit high-risk driving situations for new drivers.
Beyond that, and consistent with the NHTSA's recommendations, communicate with your teen about drug and alcohol use both generally, for their overall health and well-being, and in particular with respect to the dangers of driving under the influence.
Be aware that your teen is watching you drive when you are behind the wheel and drive accordingly. It is also important to set aside significant time to supplement the behind-the-wheel experience and to intervene with bad habits they might be learning from watching their friends.
Helping Your Teenager Be Safer Behind the Wheel
As a parent, all you want to do is to make sure that your teenager is being safe while they drive. You can't monitor them while they are away and so you want to make sure they are making wise decisions. The best way you can help them is by educating them about the importance of driving safely.
Here is a safety checklist that YOUR teen should be following every time they get behind the wheel:
- If consumed alcohol do NOT get into the vehicle: Call parent right away!
- Avoid driving in severe weather (ice, snow, heavy rain, strong winds)
- Make sure the car has no new scratches/dents or damage
- Adjust seat
- Adjust your mirrors
- Put on seatbelts & make sure passengers have their seatbelts. They should say, "Is everybody buckled?"
- Pick radio station before starting car & keep it at a safe volume to hear surroundings
- Know directions BEFORE starting the car
- Make phone calls, or text, before starting the car: Put your phone out of reach to avoid the temptations of grabbing your phone.
- Put away snacks
- Look at gas to make sure that you have enough
- Follow ALL the rules of the road including no speeding, pull over for emergency vehicles, stopping and stop signs, and slowing down at yellow lights.
Some or all of these preventative measures can, in the end, prevent a teen driver from significantly impacting another person's life in a negative way.
To the extent it could keep a teen driver from injuring or potentially killing another person or themselves in a motor vehicle crash involving one of their passengers, another vehicle, a bicyclist or pedestrian, or otherwise, making preventative efforts upfront is well worth it.