It’s a rite of passage for every teenager: getting a driver’s license, or at least for many teens these days.
Part of that ritual is the inevitable lecture from parents about how driving is a big responsibility and that is not to be taken lightly. That sermon comes from a good place, even if most parents don’t fully understand how very important it may be.
According to a new National Safety Council poll, 76% of parents don’t know that the biggest threat to their child’s safety is that 2,500-pound behemoth sitting in the driveway: car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens in the U.S.
“Parents tend to worry most about the things we hear in the news, like cyber bullying and drug and alcohol use,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.
“But car crashes are the number one killer of teens. Ensuring our most vulnerable drivers safely gain the experience they need will result in more teens attending prom and graduation, not their friends’ funerals.”
(Young drivers interest in new vehicles rises with increase in technology. For more, Click Here.)
While cars, trucks and sport-utes are safer now than ever, drivers face more distractions than ever, which balances out the safety improvements. Teens are especially susceptible to things like texting while driving, talking to other passengers, etc.
A few important points about teens behind the wheel:
- Other teen passengers are one of the biggest distractions for teen drivers. Just one teen passenger raises a teen driver’s fatal crash risk 44%. Two passengers doubles fatal crash risk. Three or more quadruples crash risk.
- Most fatal nighttime crashes involving teen drivers happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.
- More than half of teens killed in car crashes were not restrained by a seatbelt.
These points are all representative of one overriding factor: experience or a lack thereof. Teens crash most often because they don’t have the experience to deal with many situations they’ll come across when behind the wheel.
Albeit there is no substitute for experience, parents play a big role in what kind of drivers their children will be on the road, often modeling the behavior they see from mom and dad, Hersman noted, adding that setting rules for new drivers is important as well.
(Click Here to see why Gen Z is excited about driving.)
Here is a list of suggestions for providing structure for new drivers:
- Buckle up on every trip, and make sure passengers are buckled, too
- Keep household rules in place, even after school lets out. One third of parents surveyed said they allow risky behaviors during vacations, like driving late at night
- Practice with teens, even after licensure, to ensure they are retaining good driving habits
- Model good behaviors. Ninety-five percent of parents who drive distracted do so in front of their teens.
- Set household cell phone rules. More than half of teens feel pressure from their families to drive distracted
A few other basics when it comes to new drivers, includes not putting teens behind the wheel of cars they cannot handle, such as sports cars or high-powered luxury vehicles. If they’re going to buy a car, airbags, anti-lock brakes and the like are pretty much standard equipment on most vehicles they’ll be looking at these days.
(To see more about the best type of first cars for teens, Click Here.)
However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommends electronic stability control as well to help offset any overreaction teens are likely to have when behind the wheel. The group also recommends bigger, heavier cars for new drivers.