Apr 30, 2012 | BY Amy Gall
Taking the Wheel
Driving tips for teenagers
If your teen is counting down the days until he’s able to legally drive (if he’s not behind the wheel already), you’re not alone. But before you hand over the keys, it’s important to remember that driving is a high-risk activity, especially for young, inexperienced drivers. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. On average, eight teens die every day from motor vehicle injuries.
How big is the problem? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 3,000 U.S. teens between ages 15-19 are killed annually and more than 350,000 are treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.
“All new drivers, even straight-A students and good kids have a higher chance of being involved in a fatal crash than experienced drivers,” says St. Joseph’s Children’s Advocate Tamyne Maxson. “Per miles driven, drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.”
Maxson adds that teenagers tend to make risky decisions and often overestimate their abilities. Among teen drivers, those at especially high risk for motor vehicle crashes are:
- Males: The occurrence of motor vehicle deaths for male drivers and passengers ages 15 to 19 are nearly two times higher than that of their female counterparts.
- Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.
- Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teenagers are eligible to drive.
The good news is that most teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable and proven strategies can improve the safety of young drivers on the road.
Research shows that parents play an important role in increasing their teen’s driving skills as they have the have the greatest influence over their teen’s behavior.
“Talking with your teen about the importance of being responsible while driving is the first step to keeping them safe,” says Maxson. “It’s also a good idea to remind your teen that driving is a privilege, not a right.”
St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital recommends the following to help protect your teen driver.
- Practice driving with your teen as often as possible. “Don’t rely on driver’s education classes exclusively,” Maxson says.
- Consider extending your teen’s supervised driving period.
- Model good driving behavior. Always use seat belts and never use a cellphone while driving.
- Establish driving limitations. Outline clear boundaries, such as a limited number of passengers and minimal driving time when it’s dark or during severe weather.
- Negotiate and enforce a teen driving contract. After establishing driving limitations and agreeing on rules, write an agreement so the entire family has an understanding of the importance of safe driving.
- Impose penalties for irresponsible driving behavior. Don’t take speeding tickets or moving violations lightly. “Put the financial responsibility on your teen driver to pay the consequences for their poor driving behavior,” Maxson says.
- Eliminate distractions. Establish rules against eating, drinking, socializing and using equipment such as cellphones and mp3 players.
- Consider installing an easy-to-use electronic monitoring unit. To help promote responsible driving, some insurance companies recommend that you install a device in your vehicle that tracks speed, time of travel and mileage. For a monthly fee, you can sign up with a bumper sticker program that allows other drivers to report your child’s driving behavior.
Tips for Teens
- Wear your seat belt every time you get into any vehicle.
- Stay focused. Keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel at all times.
- Never use your cellphone or text while driving. Always pull over to a safe place to talk or text if it can’t wait.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Follow posted speed limits.
- Avoid distractions. The most common distractions include talking or texting on the phone, eating or drinking, talking with passengers, listening to loud music, changing radio stations or songs on an mp3 player or looking for CDs.
- Avoid driving when you are tired.
- Stay calm. Whether motivated by emotion, running late or just bad driving habits, reckless driving causes crashes that can result in injury or death.
For more information on how to keep your kids safe and healthy on the road and at home, visit Facebook.com/StJosephsChildrens.
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