Who doesn't remember the sheer joy of their first year behind the wheel? For drivers ages 16-19 (and their parents), though, that bliss comes with some pretty sobering statistics. Their fatality rates per mile driven are three times higher than for drivers who are at least 20 years old.
So what can you do to reduce worries during those early years? Keep on coaching!
These are the top five new-driver mistakes we see and ways you can help your teen correct them:
- Smartphone use when driving. Despite tightened eDUI laws, distracted driving remains a leading cause of accidents for all but the oldest drivers.
SOLUTION: Set a good example yourself – no phone use behind the wheel, no eating, no applying makeup. Also, don't call or text your teen if you think they might be driving. Kids feel obligated to answer parents right away. Check with your cellphone carrier to see if it offers text blocking service with an app that automatically turns on when the car is moving. (If not, you can download apps to silence the phone.)
- Too much speed, too little following distance. Studies show teens tend to drive an average of 1.3 miles per hour faster than other drivers and leave two-tenths of a second less following distance. That doesn't sound like much, right? But just 10 feet can make the difference between a rear-end collision and stopping in time.
SOLUTION: Ride with your teen every once in a while, even after they've satisfied licensing requirements for parent-accompanied practice hours. You may be able to spot and correct unsafe behaviors before they turn into dangerous, hard-to-change habits.
- Too many passengers. Of all the distractions teens face when driving, teen passengers are the worst. Accident rates increase for each additional teen in the car.
SOLUTION: Insist your teens follow graduated licensing laws that limit the number of non-family passengers. Once they age out of those limits, consider setting house rules of your own.
- Unnecessary driving at night. Only 14% of miles driven by 16- to 17-year-old drivers occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., yet those hours account for 32% of fatal crashes in this age group. Most of those accidents happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.
SOLUTION: Graduated licensing laws help you here, too, because they restrict nighttime driving hours for beginners. Also, consider activity-based curfews. You can say, for example, if the movie is over by 10 p.m., please be home by 10:30. That eliminates extra stops and aimless trips during dangerous hours.
- Driving the wrong car. What teens drive influences how they drive. And in a crash, the right car can make the difference between walking away and serious injury.
SOLUTION: Put them in the safest car you can afford. You can't be with your teen all the time, but the car will. Here are tips to help you find the right one.