Crashproof Your Teen
Getting a driver license is the most eagerly awaited event in most teenagers' lives — and the most dreaded for their parents. After all, while a driver license is a badge of freedom, it brings with it tremendous risk: Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens.
Put simply, teen drivers' lack of experience means they are the least equipped to make quick decisions in a vehicle. Teens usually lose control of their vehicles because they swerve to miss something and then either don't correct enough, or overcorrect and swerve into something else. These often single-vehicle crashes regularly cause vehicles to roll over — particularly if the teens are driving sport-utility vehicles. Rollovers account for about 25 percent of all fatal crashes. One reason rollovers are so deadly for teens: This age group has the lowest rate of seatbelt use and unbelted occupants are often ejected, which can cause life-threatening head injuries.
Young drivers are more prone to driver distractions, reducing their ability to react correctly to trouble. Along with carrying several passengers, these include speeding, drinking and playing loud music.
Raising the driving age for a year or more is a proven way to save lives, because the crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16-year-olds as it is for 18- and 19-year-olds, according to the IIHS. When graduated licensing laws delay full licensure until 17, some of the crashes and deaths are merely postponed, but research shows that most of these slightly older drivers are better, more mature and simply safer on the road. In February, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that 16-year-old drivers were involved in 38 percent fewer fatal crashes in the states with the most stringent graduated licensing laws.
This should not be a surprise given that humans' brains aren't fully developed and capable of making informed decisions about risk until they are 25, according to the National Institutes of Health. But it doesn't do much to satisfy teen drivers' yearnings for a car or their lack of perspective on their own abilities.
Lower Your Teens Risk of a Serious Crash
Be actively involved in your teens driving training
The majority of driving experience and on the road insturction should come from parents. Aim to spend at least 50 hours with your teen practicing on-road driving before they are allowed to go solo.
Set a good example
Teens imitate parents' behavior behind the wheel. Be sure to always wear your seatbelt, refrain from texting or cell phone use and obey posted speed limits. Also always insist that all passengers wear a seatbelt.
Decide if your teen is mature enough to get a license
Just because the law states that your teen is of legal age to have a driver's license, does not mean that parents must approve for their teen to do so. Parents should carefully consider that maturity level of their teenager and determine if they are ready to take on the additional risk and responsibility of being a driver.
Establish a Parent / Teen Driving Contract
Once your teen does become a licensed driver, set firm rules in writing that include night time driving restrictions, passenger restrictions (to 0 or a maximum of 1 driver) and purpose of driving. Teens should only be allowed to drive with a specific destination and prohibited from joy riding.
Use technology to monitor your teens driving habits and continue reinforcing safe driving behavior.
There are several tools and apps available to parents that can help set driving restrictions and monitor teen driving including speed, location, texting and more. Find one that you feel comfortable with and use the technology to monitor your teen's driving and provide valuable feedback that will help reinforce safe driving habits.