The teenage years are often the time for parents to hand over the car keys to their children. However, this doesn’t mean their children are inherently prepared for this new responsibility. This guide will help parents and guardians learn effective ways to keep their teen drivers safe behind the wheel.
The Risk Factors
Seventy-five percent of teen driver crashes are caused by critical errors
Three common errors cause about half of these crashes. These include going too fast for the road conditions, failing to scan the road and look for hazards, and getting distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle.
Most teen crashes are caused by inexperience
Immaturity and lack of driving experience are major causes of teen driving accidents. Even the best adolescent drivers may lack the judgment that comes from years of experience. This plays a role in their inability to recognize or respond quickly to hazardous situations on the road.
Failing to wear a seat belt can increase a teen’s risk of injury or death during a car crash
Most young drivers don’t recognize the importance of wearing a seat belt. In fatal car accidents among 16- to 20-year-olds, 60 percent of them are unbuckled during the crash.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a common cause of vehicular accidents among teen drivers
Impaired driving, which includes driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, increases the risk of a serious crash. This impairs the judgment and reaction times of teen drivers when faced with hazardous situations on the road.
Drowsy driving is considered an impairment, which is a serious risk factor on teenage driving
Sleep deprivation is common among teens. This increases their risk of getting in a car crash when driving. In fact, being awake for 18 hours is likened to having a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.05, which is considered legally intoxicated.
Teens can’t handle complex executive functions needed to drive safely on the road
Driving requires an individual to handle complex tasks at once, such as focusing on the road, applying the right driving skills, and filtering out distractions. These tasks are handled by the brain’s frontal lobe, which isn’t fully developed until teens reach early adulthood.
Distracted driving accounts for 66 percent of crashes among teen drivers
According to the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving increases this risk by up to 23 times while dialing a number boosts it by six times.
Teens can also be distracted by other things, such as fiddling with the stereo, reaching for something inside the car, or looking at themselves in the mirror.
What Can We Do?
Provide Proper Driver Training
Parents should enrol their child in a driver’s education course. The more driving practise young drivers get, the better. Aside from this, some insurance companies also offer safe-driver programs to help teen participants be more responsible on the road.
Some of the responsibilities expected from teen drivers include limiting the number of passengers, buckling up, and getting home before a certain time. These will be thoroughly discussed during the program.
Other insurance companies may subsidise the cost of GPS systems and dash cams to monitor young drivers on the road. Then, parents are alerted of any unsafe driving practices through call or text.
Emphasize the Use of Seat Belts
The use of seat belts is not only required by the law but also reduces the risk of death and injury by 90 percent during motor-vehicular accidents. Parents and guardians are advised to always remind their teen drivers to buckle up, even on short trips.
A common misconception among teens is that they could be trapped in their seat belts. In a real-life scenario, being strapped to the seat will likely improve their chances of staying conscious during a crash. This gives them a chance to unbuckle and get out of the vehicle.
Encourage Them Not to Drink and Drive
Driving under the influence is not only unsafe; it’s also a crime. While the numbers of deaths from teen drunk driving has significantly decreased over the years, many young drivers still drink and drive.
Parents are advised to talk to their children and prohibit kids from driving when drunk and riding in a vehicle with an impaired driver. Teens should be able to call their parents to ask them for a ride home when they’ve had a drink or two.
Offer a Ride
Drowsiness can increase a teen’s chances of getting into a car crash as this delays their responses and blurs their judgment. Parents need to prohibit their teen drivers from getting behind the wheel if they lack sleep. Otherwise, they can offer them a ride to their destination instead of allowing their teen drivers to drive themselves.
Get the Right Car
Parents don’t need to hand their children a brand-new car. However, it’s important that they choose the right car for them to use.
More often, parents buy an old second-hand car or a hand-me-down that’s well past its prime. These vehicles may not be equipped with the latest safety features and requirements, which can increase their children’s risk for injury during crashes.
Teen drivers are faced with a lot of distractions when driving. While it is in their discretion to focus on the road, parents can also do their part by limiting the distractions for their children.
This can be as simple as not calling or texting their teens when they know their kids are driving. For emergencies, they can teach them to pull over when answering a call.
Prohibit Peer Passengers
Driving with friends is a known distraction that can lead to car accidents. Parents need to set rules about limiting the number of passengers when driving. Driving alone or with family is the much safer route.
Parents should hold off on allowing friends as passengers for at least three to six months.
Watch the Weather
Driving in inclement weather is a safety hazard, especially among teen drivers. Parents should teach their children how to manage driving in extreme weather conditions and encourage them to stop if they’re not confident getting behind the wheel.
They can enrol their teen drivers in a driving school that can better teach them proper ways of handling possible weather scenarios on the road.
Create Driving Rules
Teen drivers are more likely to practice responsible driving when there are ground rules involved. Parents can create a “driving contract” for them and their children to sign. The rules can include getting home before a curfew or not taking the car to parties. Both should agree to hand over the keys to the adults when any of these rules are broken.
Finally, Be a Good Role Model
If the parents are breaking the rules themselves, teen drivers will likely follow suit. When driving with the kids, parents should abide by the road rules and take their own driving advice to heart.
Tips for Teen Driving Safety
Wear a Seat Belt
Wearing a seat belt has saved many lives. Teen drivers should never fail to buckle up when getting behind the wheel, even if they’re just going out on a short trip.
According to a study by the NHTSA, young drivers involved in fatal crashes think wearing seat belts will do them more harm than good. The truth is, strapping up prevents them from getting thrown out of the vehicle in case of a crash, which decreases their chances of injury or death.
Scan the Road
Road scanning is a crucial skill teen drivers need to develop for safe driving. This involves looking ahead for any potential hazards, as well as anticipating when to brake based on the traffic lights.
Young drivers also need to make occasional glances on their side-view and rear-view mirrors to keep a safe distance between nearby vehicles.
Don’t Drink and Drive
Drinking impairs one’s reflexes, sense of judgment, and decision-making skills. Teens who are intoxicated or under the influence of any drug should never get behind the wheel. This is illegal and unsafe, not just for them but for other drivers and pedestrians too.
When drinking out, it’s much safer for teens to ask for a ride from a sober acquaintance or to ask their parents to pick them up.
Don’t Ride With an Impaired Driver
Riding with an impaired driver, even if they’re an adult, puts anyone at greater risk for a vehicular accident. Teens often overestimate their peers’ capabilities to drive under the influence and downplay the risks involved.
Teens should know better than to get in a vehicle with someone unfit to drive. A better solution would be to call their parents for a ride home or stay at a friend’s home until they’re sober.
Having one too many passengers is an added distraction for teenage drivers, especially if they’re friends. Young drivers need to delay their decision to take peer passengers, waiting for three to six months or the time they can be trusted driving by themselves.
Until then, teen drivers are encouraged to drive alone or with a skilled family member who will help them practice good driving habits.
Hang Up the Phone
Texting while driving increases the risk of vehicular accidents among teens and adults in their 20s. The need to respond to a text or to answer a call can be tempting, so young drivers are advised to turn off their mobile phones when out on the road.
Answering a call hands-free is also not recommended, as keeping up with a conversation can also take the mind away from the road.
Other forms of distraction can be as simple as checking themselves out in the mirror during a stop sign or picking a song on the radio.
Follow the Road Signals
Following the road signs and traffic signals keeps drivers safe on the road, including young drivers. It’s crucial that they know what these signals mean to keep traffic in order and to avoid accidents.
Teen drivers are advised to relearn their road signals every now and then to keep them from breaking the law and causing others trouble.
Get Enough Sleep
Drowsiness can increase a teen driver’s risk of accidents on the road. Teen drivers should avoid driving if they didn’t get enough sleep the night before. In these cases, it’s better to take public transportation or ask their parents for a ride to their destination.
If they start to feel sleepy behind the wheel, it’s safer to stop driving and take a break until they are fully alert and awake.
Test the Lights
The headlights, taillights, and other indicators are important safety items on a vehicle, so it’s best for teen drivers to familiarize themselves with such devices and ensure those are properly working.
Teens can ask their parents or friend to check the outside lights while they activate them inside the car. If any of the lights don’t work, they need to be replaced right away. Otherwise, driving the vehicle is discouraged.
If possible, avoid Driving at Night
The darkness at night-time can impair one’s reflexes, especially for inexperienced teens that are still developing their driving skills.
To avoid these safety risks altogether, it’s best for young drivers to skip driving during night-time and hold off travelling until it’s bright outside.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Statistics and facts clearly indicate the safety risks young drivers face on the road each day. It’s not a matter of trust—it’s a matter of keeping their safety the utmost priority as they embark on this new phase of their lives.
Parents must know how to educate their children about safe driving, and they must follow their own advice. On the one hand, teens must consider driving not only a sign of freedom but also an added responsibility.
Not only will being a responsible young driver keep them away from harm, it will also keep others safe.
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