• Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 15-18
  • Teenage drivers are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than adult drivers
  • Parents are the greatest influence on teen driver safety
  • Teens can take steps to dramatically improve their safety while driving

 

It is a sobering fact that vehicle crashes kill more teenagers in the U.S. than any other cause – ahead of all other types of illness, accidents, or violence. And, the heartbreaking reality is that most of those lives could have been saved had the teens in the cars followed a few fundamental steps to improve their safety significantly.

1.     Parents must set a good example

Children begin to observe their parent’s behavior at a very early age. By the time a child is old enough to sit in the front seat, they have witnessed and memorized countless parental driving habits – good and bad. Studies show that teens who exhibit dangerous driving behaviors have often learned them from their parents, saying their parents’ action legitimized things such as talking on the phone or running red lights. If parents set safe driving examples, teens will likely imitate them and have fewer crashes. 

2.     Take more than one driver’s training class

Most teens take only one behind-the-wheel driver’s training class, which is the minimum required by local licensing agencies. Experts agree that the amount of training young drivers receive before earning a driver’s license is insufficient, recommending the parents enroll their teens in additional specialized programs that teach car control and accident avoidance – tools and experience that teens may use to evade and prevent crashes. 

3.     Drive the newest vehicle you can afford

Automotive design has come a long way in the past decade as federal regulations mandate stronger vehicles engineered to pass more rigid side-impact, rollover, and roof crush standards – even the least expensive new car is safer than a vehicle built a decade ago. Late model vehicles are also fitted with advanced anti-lock brakes, stability control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist. Today’s newest automotive technologies include automatic emergency braking systems that can prevent rear-end collisions — all but eliminating a common type of dangerous teen crashes.

4.     Utilize teen safety features and technology

Many automakers have proactively installed teen driving features that help promote safe driving habits. These features include limiting the vehicle’s top speed, restricting audio volume levels, monitoring seat belt usage, and allowing remote tracking of a vehicle’s whereabouts. Systems like Ford’s MyKey, GM’s Teen Driver and Family Link, Hyundai’s Blue Link, Chrysler’s KeySense, and Volkswagen’s Car-Net improve safety at a minimal additional cost. Some, like Ford’s MyKey, have been standard fitment on all the automaker’s models since 2010.  

5.     Wear a seatbelt

Studies show that more than half of all teenagers killed in car crashes were not wearing seatbelts (that figure rises significantly at night, when an even greater number of teens fail to properly restrain themselves in moving vehicles). Federal law mandated seatbelts for all passenger cars more than 50 years ago, and nearly every state has laws requiring their use. Despite their widespread availability, legal requirements directing their use, and lethal consequences, teens are still the least likely of all age demographic to wear seat belts.

6.     Put the phone away

Distracted driving – more specifically, texting or using a mobile phone while behind the wheel – is a leading cause of crashes for teens. Operating a mobile phone by hand requires manual, cognitive, and visual engagement – it literally takes your hands, mind, and eyes off the road. Link the phone into the vehicle’s hands-fee Bluetooth system or plug it into an Apple CarPlay / Android Auto enabled USB port. Then put the mobile device out of sight within the glove box or center console.

7.     Say “no” to peer pressure

The likelihood of a fatal accident increases significantly when there is more than one teen in a vehicle. This explains why so many states have enacted graduated driver’s licenses that limit the number of passengers new drivers may carry within the vehicle during the early stages of licensing. To combat peer pressure to speed, run through traffic lights, or drive aggressively, young drivers need to learn how to say “no” to their passengers. Putting the blame on their parents (“Mom and dad will take away my keys.”) is often the most effective, and least resisted, strategy when among teenage peers.  

8.     Look down the road, not at the end of the hood

Tailgating is a leading cause of car crashes among teens. As inexperienced drivers are unable to instinctively react to sudden changes in traffic patterns, rear-end collisions are frequent. Taking a cue from the way we walk (we don’t look at our feet — we peer forward and use our peripheral vision to confirm what our eyes have already focused on), experienced drivers look far down the road to identify potential situations that will require imminent braking or evasive maneuvers. If something is happening immediately in front of the vehicle, it is often too late to react. 

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