Getting a driver’s license is a teenager’s first real sign of independence. Once that little card with the wide-smiled picture is in their hand, new drivers can’t help but feel excited and maybe even a sense of power they haven’t experienced before.
For parents, this is the time to get real and give their new drivers a reality check.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some sobering statistics about teenage drivers. In a 2013 report, the CDC shared the following information about teenagers ages 16-19:
· Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States.
· Police reported about 963,000 accidents involving teenagers.
· Nearly 250,000 teenagers were treated in emergency departments for car accident injuries.
· 2,163 teenagers died as a result of car accidents.
· Every day, six teenagers died from car accident injuries.
· Male drivers and passengers were almost twice as likely to die from car accidents as females.
Teenagers who are properly trained for the responsibility of driving lower their chance of becoming one of these statistics. Once a teen has a driver’s license in hand, parents should take the time to sit down and share some important, but easy-to-follow safety tips for behind the wheel.
1. Take driver’s education. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles requires all potential drivers who are under 18 years old “to have 30 hours of classroom training and 50 hours of behind-the wheel experience.” These classes are meant to help new drivers explore the driver’s manual in detail, as well as provide critical time behind the wheel in real-life scenarios.
2. Limit passengers. Having teenage passengers in the car increases the chance of an accident. The American Automobile Association states a teenager’s chance of an accident increases 44 percent when having one passenger under age 21. The accident chance doubles when carrying two passengers under 21. Finally, the rate quadruples when carrying three or more passengers under age 21. Based on these statistics, many parents have set a no passenger rule in the car when the teenager is driving. Talk with your teen to see if this rule is a good fit for your family.
3. Watch your speed. Speed is the most common contributor to teen driving accidents. Teensafedriver.com explored a report stating male drivers “lead the pack in speeding-related fatal crashes in every age group, with ages 16-19 years experiencing the most incidents. In fact, 53 percent of single vehicle crashes involving 16-year-old drivers are speed related compared to only 30 percent for ages 30-64. The solution to this problem is simple: remind young drivers to ease up on the gas pedal and be aware of speed limit signs at all times.
4. Turn off the phone. Cell phones and smartphones are great for teenage drivers to have in case of an emergency or as a way to get directions to a location. That is all these devices should be used for in a car. No texting, no phone calls. About 12 percent of all teenage driving accidents are due to cell phone use (both texting and talking). Many families draw up a contract to ensure teenagers know how important it is to stay distraction-free while behind the wheel. Encourage a teen driver to get directions before leaving, turn off the phone while in the car and then call or send a text to let mom or dad know of a safe arrival.
5. Be prepared for changing weather conditions. As seasons change, so do road conditions. All drivers should learn how to properly maneuver a car in a variety of conditions, however this should be done under close supervision. Even after getting some experience in the car, teenage drivers should remember to increase their distance between cars when it’s raining or snowing to account for slower stops after breaking. Every person’s reaction time is different and keeping a wide distance between cars can help prevent accidents. Remind teens they can slow down in bad weather, even if the speed limit signs indicate they can go faster. Drive with the current conditions in mind.
6. Keep an eye on the gas tank. A good rule of thumb is to never let the gas tank get below a quarter-full. This will help keep the car running better in all weather conditions and drivers will never have to worry about running out of gas if they establish this habit early in their driving career. Many accidents happen as people wait on the side of the road or walk to get gas to fill an empty tank.
7. Practice good car maintenance. Keeping up with a car’s maintenance schedule is one of the best and easiest ways to keep teenagers safe as they drive. Oil changes should be completed at manufacturer’s recommended times. The driver should either know how to check all the fluids (oil, transmission, washer) in the car or have someone to help with those inspections. Tire pressure and tread should be checked regularly to ensure best tire performance in all weather conditions. Staying on top of a car’s basic safety maintenance checks can give teen drivers (and their parents) some peace of mind that the vehicle is in good, working order.
To learn more about teen driving laws and parent responsibility in the event of a motor vehicle accident, visit the Ed Bernstein & Associates webpage for more teen driving news, a sample driving test and information.