Keeping Your Teen Safe on the Road

With National Teen Driver Safety Week just behind us, the Department of Transportation has launched a new initiative to get parents and teens to talk about safe driving. Parents also should model safe-driving habits for their teens if they want to make a real impression, safety officials said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (as cited in the Los Angeles Times article by Jerry Hirsch, October 15, 2012) 1,963 drivers age 15 to 20 died and an additional 187,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2010. One out of 10 drivers involved in a fatal crash were between the ages of 15 and 20. “Immaturity, inexperience, and a penchant for risk-taking are the major reasons for high crash and fatality rates among teen drivers,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “In addition to comprehensive state graduated driver licensing systems and strong bans on teen cellphone use and texting while driving, parents who are involved throughout the learning-to-drive process are vital in creating safe and prepared young drivers.”

As part of Safety Week, NHTSA gave these tips for parents of teen drivers.

• Understand the graduated driver-licensing laws in your state. Each state has a different set of restrictions, but the graduated system has reduced teen accidents, NHTSA said. Find out how many supervised driving hours a teen needs to obtain a license and make sure your child meets that requirement.

• Have a parent-teen driving contract that sets rules and creates consequences of breaking those rules.

• Bar the use of all electronic devices, such as smartphones, while driving. In 2010, 368 teen drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were distracted, accounting for 13% of all fatal distraction-crashes.

• Limit teen passengers and night driving. Many of the graduated licensing laws already do this. A NHTSA analysis found teen drivers were 2½ times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with a peer compared to when driving alone. Most fatal nighttime crashes of young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. NHTSA recommends a maximum of one passenger in the car with your teen at any time and no driving later than 10 p.m.

• Make seatbelts mandatory. Three out of five 16-to-20-year-old occupants killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing seatbelts in 2010.

• Talk about alcohol. In 2010, 22% of the young drivers involved in fatal crashes were drinking. Also talk about the risk of being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who is alcohol impaired.