If you’re a teen driver – or the parent of a teen driver – you’r right to worry. Drivers under 21 are three times more likely to be involved in car crashes than experienced drivers. There are number of reasons why this is the case:
- Teens are inexperienced. Driving is a complex task that requires training, good judgment, and experience. Teen drivers have received the first, but have not acquired the other two. It takes a minimum of two years to make a competent driver, which is why that crash rates are very high in the first few months of driving.
- They don’t buckle up. Teens feel immortal, which makes them adventurous and fun. But it can also make them reckless, as when they refuse to wear seat belts because they think they’ll never need them.
- They are likely to be distracted drivers. The pull of social ties is strong on teenagers. They love to be in contact with friends, and smartphones have given them a constant that constant connection. However, once again their feeling of invincibility brings a hazard: they generally feel that they can get away with texting and driving.
- They are more likely to drive while impaired. One in ten high school drivers drinks and drives. About a quarter of car-related teen deaths involve an underage drinking driver.
- They are impulsive. We all know how teens tend to make decisions without thinking, especially when around other teens. In a car, this can be lethal.
In order to keep your teen driver safe, you need to stay informed and in control. Here are some measures that will help your teen develop good driving habits:
- Agree on the rules. Create a contract – a written document – between you and your teen setting out what you both understand your teen’s obligations are.
- Insist upon seat belts. This must be a non-negotiable requirement in order to have permission to drive. Seat belts save lives.
- Talk to your teen about the drunk driving. They need to understand how dangerous it is. You might consider installing in ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
- Educate your teen about distracted driving. Use available videos and materials to bring home the idea that distracted driving can kill. Consider an app that prevents texting while the car is moving.
- Limit your teen’s number of passengers. Every passenger your teen takes on increases the risk of a crash significantly.
- Spend time driving with your teen. Drive with your teen as both a driver and passenger. You both will learn a lot, and you can pass on valuable safety habits.
On a happy note, most teens survive their teen driving days and go on to be safe adult drivers. Yours can too. But it will only happen if you understand that teens are not yet adults, and while they are performing the very adult act of driving a car, they need support and supervision while they are still in this formative stage.