Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2015, approximately 2,300 teen ages 16 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes.
Fatal car accidents claim more teen lives than injuries, disease, or violence.
Experts attribute teens’ heightened risk of involvement in a crash to their overconfidence, inexperience, and an increased likelihood to speed, make mistakes, and get distracted -- especially if their friends are in the car.
The NHTSA is raising awareness during National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 15-21), and encouraging parents to talk with their teen drivers about what is and isn’t safe driving behavior.
Distracted driving, drowsy driving, speeding, alcohol use, not wearing a seatbelt, and driving with passengers are among the risky driving behaviors teens are more likely than older drivers to engage in behind the wheel.
Surveys show teens whose parents set firm rules for driving tend to engage in less risky driving behaviors and be involved in fewer crashes
Reducing crash risk
Here are a few topics to talk about while going over safe driving habits with teens:
Don’t drink and drive. Despite not being legally allowed to buy alcohol, almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, according to 2015 data from the NHTSA. Remind your teen that driving under the influence of any substance– including illicit prescription or even over the counter drugs–could have deadly consequences and is strictly enforced.
Always wear a seatbelt. The simple act of buckling up before embarking on a drive could save your teen’s life or help prevent injuries.
Avoid distractions. Distraction was a key factor in 58 percent of crashes involving drivers ages 16 to 19, according to an analysis of video footage of 1,691 moderate-to-severe crashes 6 seconds before they occurred. Ask your teen not to text while they’re driving and to limit other distractions, such as eating, fiddling with controls, or talking to passengers.
Pull over if you’re drowsy. Drowsiness can impair your ability to drive just like alcohol. If your teen suddenly feels drowsy, tell them they should immediately slow down and pull off the road into a safe parking space. Alternatively, they could take a pit stop, use the bathroom, and get a soda or coffee to wake up.
Stick to the speed limit. Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers, according to AAA. Inexperienced drivers, in particular, should make sure they heed the speed limits, especially in construction work zones.
Maintain a safe distance. Following too closely accounts for a large number of the crashes caused by teens. In wet weather, double or triple the space you normally leave between you and the car in front of you. More space is needed to stop on slick roads.