The problem: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds in the United States.
The solution: Parents who take time to talk with their teens about the many dangers of driving, and who impose driving restrictions (like ‘house rules’ or a parent-teen driving contract), typically have teens who engage in less risky driving and are involved in fewer crashes.
Each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) promotes National Teen Driver Safety Week. This year, the week kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 16. You can join in by starting important conversations about driving with the teen drivers in your household.
Start off by sharing the five rules that address the greatest driving risks teen drivers face.
- No alcohol. The minimum legal drinking age in every state is 21. Despite that, in 2013, among 15- to 20-year-old drivers killed in crashes, 29% had been drinking. Remind teens that alcohol and driving should never mix no matter your age.
- No cell phone use or texting while driving. Texting or dialing while driving is more than just risky – it’s deadly. In 2013, among drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 11% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the highest percentage of drivers distracted by phone use.
- No driving or riding without a seat belt. In 2013, more than half (55%) of all 15- to 20-year-old occupants of passenger vehicles killed in crashes were unrestrained. Lead by example and wear your seat belt every time you’re in the car, and stress the importance of buckling up every trip, every time.
- No speeding. In 2013, speeding was a factor in 42% of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers. Every time your traveling speed doubles, stopping distance quadruples.
- No extra passengers. NHTSA data shows that a teenage driver is 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behavior when driving with one teenage passenger and three times more likely with multiple teenage passengers. Check your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing law before your teen takes to the road – the law may prohibit any passengers.
Once teens taste a bit of freedom, it’s likely parents will enjoy that freedom, too. But it’s important to keep conversations about safe driving consistent with your teen driver. Even if it seems like they’re not listening, check in regularly – you’re the biggest influence in your teen’s safety behind the wheel.
For more information on how you can drive the conversation, check out our Safe Teen Driver site.