Discuss Risks of Driving with your Teen
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Bring up the subject of driving to parents of teens and you're sure to illicit immediate stress and worry — and with good reason. Statistics show that young drivers are not only involved in more fatal crashes than any other age group, but also are more likely to take risks behind the wheel. A recent study by Dr. Bruce Simons-Morton of the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development reported that newly licensed teen drivers were five times more likely than older drivers to engage in risky maneuvers on the road.
New Study Tracks Teens' Risky Driving Behavior
Rather than just compiling survey stats, Dr. Simons-Morton's unique research was conducted by actually installing a GPS, cameras and monitoring devices to detect acceleration changes (starts, stops and swerves) of teen drivers over an 18-month period. On a positive note, study results showed that teen driving improved dramatically with experience: crash incidents were very high at licensure, but declined rapidly after 18 months. However, risky driving did not improve including rapid acceleration, braking late and swerving abruptly. The report concluded that newly licensed drivers are at higher risk for crashes because of inexperience. The solution: limit conditions under which new drivers drive to the safest possible until they become more experienced. Graduated Driver Licensing, which has been implemented in some form in every state, attempts to do just that.
Graduated Driver Licensing Attempts to Reduce Teen Driving Risks
One way states have tried to reduce the prevalence of teen crashes is to institute graduated driver licensing laws. These laws place limitations on teen drivers which gradually lessen as they mature with age and become more experienced. Examples include restricting the number of passengers allowed in the car or restricting nighttime driving until they gain full driving privileges. While graduated licensing varies from state to state, experts consider it the key to keeping your young driver safe. If your state's graduated licensing requirements are more lenient than you'd like, set your own guidelines for your teen until you feel his maturity and driving experience warrant more freedoms. Pay special attention to the risks below that statistics show to be among the most frequent contributing factors to teen driving crashes and fatalities.
Major Teen Driving Risks and How to Lessen Them
Driving at night lessens visibility multiplying the risk of accidents for new drivers. According to the most recent statistics from The U.S. Dept. of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System which is compiled every year, 60% of crash deaths in 2009 happened between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., with the most (20%) occurring between 9 p.m. and midnight. Bad weather conditions can also contribute to limited visibility and hazardous road conditions, especially for new drivers who lack experience on how to react.
Preventive steps parents can take: Limit your teen's driving to daylight hours and good road conditions until they gain more experience with you riding along as a friendly driving coach.
Dear Teenager Driver whose path I crossed yesterday,
In some ways I am sorry for yelling yesterday. I know I yelled loud. Adrenaline kicked in and Mother Bear came out. I now know you were scared.
You see there are three very special boys to me - VERY special. They frequently play on the sidewalk that you careened over. <Continue Reading>
Speeding contributed to a third of the crash deaths since 2000, according to the FARS report. This includes not only exceeding the speed limit, but also racing or simply driving too fast for road conditions.
Preventive steps parents can take: Talk to your teen about the dangers of speeding and limit your teen's driving on high-speed roads. Set expectations and agree on penalties including paying for speeding tickets or loss of driving privileges.
Even though they are below the drinking age in all 50 states, 22% of teen drivers ages 15-20 involved in fatal crashes in 2008 had been drinking, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Alcohol use not only impairs judgment and slows reaction time, but can also increase risky driving behavior. To worsen the problem, teens are less likely to use restraints when they have been drinking: 73% of young drivers killed in crashes in 2008 who had been drinking were not wearing seatbelts. Even teens who don't drink can be at risk if they step into a car with drinking drivers. In a report published last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 28% of students nationwide admitted to riding in vehicles driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol.
Preventive steps parents can take: Educate your teen about the dangers of drinking and prohibit them from drinking and driving or getting in a car with another teen driver who has been drinking. Promise to allow for a "cooling off" period before considering discipline if they make the smart, mature decision to call you, a family member or friend for a ride in the event they or their ride home has been drinking.
Not Wearing a Seatbelt
It's proven that seatbelts save lives, yet teens are the least likely to wear them. Without seatbelts, crash victims are much more likely to be fatally insured: only 44% of passengers and 40% of drivers age 13 and up involved in fatal crashes in 2009 were belted, according to FARS.
Preventive steps parents can take: Make seatbelts mandatory not only for your teen, but for anyone who gets in their car. Model the behavior yourself my ensuring all passengers are buckled up before you hit the road as well. Have your teen sign a pledge or family contract committing to buckle up as a requirement for driving privileges.
Anything that takes your driver’s focus off the road contributes to accidents. Sixteen percent of fatalities and 20% of crash injuries were attributed to distracted driving, according to the latest NHTSA latest statistics. Calling, texting, surfing the web or updating social media sites on a smartphone while driving have been proven to be among the most deadly distractions, prompting many states to implement laws to restrict cell phone use while driving. See this chart
to find out the cell phone and texting laws in your state.
Passengers in the car, especially other teenagers, are another dangerous distraction. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 16-year-old drivers are more likely to be in fatal crashes when passengers are riding in the vehicle and the risk increases with the addition of every passenger.
Preventive steps parents can take: Limit or eliminate passengers in your teen's car — many state's GDL requirements already do this for you. Prohibit your teen from talking, texting, surfing the web or updating social media sites on their cell phone while driving unless in an emergency. Discuss other distractions and how to avoid them.
Helpful Resources for Parents and Teens
Adrian Lund, President of the Institute of Highway Safety: the benefit to graduated licensing.
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