Top traffic safety tips for teenagers

May 23, 2017 Providence Health Team

What parents need to say to their teens before handing them the keys

As May winds down and we usher in June, late spring fever takes hold in schools across the country. It’s the time of year when teenagers are looking forward to summer vacation, prom, weekend getaways—and using their new learner’s permit or license. It’s also the time of year when parents worry and wait up for their teen drivers to get home safely.

Unfortunately, parents have a good reason to be concerned. Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for teens in the U.S, with a fatality rate that’s nearly three times higher than everyone else on the road.

Fortunately, a teen’s risk drops with experience and practice, best managed by gradual exposure to new driving situations and, of course, parental supervision. This includes setting restrictions on what kids can do behind the wheel. Set rules for your teenager to ensure they get home without an accident.

In honor of National Youth Traffic Safety Month, here is a list of driving tips parents can use to discuss driver safety with their kids.

No cell phone use while driving

The use of handheld devices has dramatically increased the number of car crashes in the U.S. resulting in nearly 25 percent of all accidents. Multiple reports say that using a cell phone while driving—whether talking or texting—is the equivalent of driving impaired. And while adults are certainly guilty of this practice, over half of all teens have admitted to talking or texting behind the wheel, according to a Pew Research poll. Remind your teenagers that cell phone use while driving may be against the law in your state and that "texting while stopped" isn't allowed, either. The best rule is: Keep cell phones turned off or out of reach while in the car.

No driving after 10 p.m.

Statistically, teenagers do only 15 percent of their driving after dark, but 40 percent of all fatal accidents happen at night. You can lower your teen’s risk by restricting his or her driving hours. The National Safety Council recommends that teens do no unsupervised driving after 10 p.m. (earlier is even better.) Check your state DMV website for laws that may prohibit teen driving at night without a licensed adult.

No passengers under age 18

For teens, the distraction caused by the presence of other people in the car is a significant risk factor for accidents. That risk increases exponentially with each additional passenger. Discourage your teen from turning a car trip into a “social gathering” by limiting passengers to two or less. The National Safety Council recommends that no one under the age of 18 should be allowed in the car during a teen’s first year of driving.

No alcohol

Driving under the influence of alcohol is, of course, dangerous, but it’s even more so for teens. Alcohol is a contributing factor in almost 30 percent of fatal accidents involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. For this reason, most states have strict laws prohibiting underage drivers from having any alcohol in their systems. Liability for damage and injury is compounded when a car accident involves alcohol. There are plenty of compelling reasons why drinking and driving is illegal, and if you can impose any one rule on your teen, make it this one.

No driving without a seat belt

This is the No. 1 vehicle safety rule for a reason. The use of seat belts can reduce car accident injuries by 50 percent. For most adults, using seat belts is a no-brainer; but for teens, it’s a habit they’ll need to develop. Remind them that drivers and passengers all need to be buckled up.

Do you have a tip on teaching kids to drive safely? Please share a comment below.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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