No school, plenty of sunshine, and a brand new driver’s license. A teen’s first summer with a driver’s license is a rite of passage of sorts, but it also presents plenty of dangers. According to information from AAA, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day represent the “100 deadliest days of summer” for teen drivers. If you’re wondering how to protect your teen driver this summer, below we discuss some important tips that you should keep in mind.
Understand the Facts
AAA refers to the summertime as “deadly” for good reason. According to AAA, nearly 3,500 people have died in crashes that involve teenage drivers during that time frame in the past five years. The average number of fatal accidents involving teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 increases 17 percent per day during the summer months when compared to any other time of the year. The three most common causes of fatal summertime crashes for teens are:
- Speeding. Speeding causes around 28 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers during the summer. AAA’s most recent Traffic Safety Culture index reveals that nearly half of all teen drivers surveyed reported speeding on a residential street within the last 30 days, and around 40 percent admitted to speeding on the freeway in that same time period.
- Drinking and driving. Although teens aren’t old enough to legally buy or consume alcohol, 17 percent of fatal crashes involving teenage drivers also involve drinking and driving.
- Distracted driving. About 9 percent of fatal crashes involving teenage drivers are caused by driver distractions, including texting, talking on the phone, and interacting with other passengers.
Protecting your teen not only encompasses how they’re driving, but also who is in the car with them and who they allow to drive them. AAA research reveals that when a teen driver has other teens in his or her vehicle and no adults, the risk of death for everyone in the vehicle increases by 51 percent. Nearly two-thirds of individuals who die in crashes involving teen drivers are people other than the teen driver. Nighttime driving also puts teen drivers and passengers in significant danger due to reduced visibility, which is a challenge for inexperienced drivers.
Teach by Example
Although teens may roll their eyes and seem to be ignoring you, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reminds parents that a teen is still watching what they do when they drive and that he or she is learning from them. This is especially true when it comes to driving. That’s why, when encouraging teens to drive safely, it’s important that you drive safely, too. Unfortunately, many parents don’t do this. A recent study from the hospital’s research institute revealed the following results from a survey of parents of children between the ages of 4 and 10:
- More than half of the 760 respondents reported talking on a hands-free device while the vehicle was moving and their children were in the car.
- 47 percent talked on a hand-held phone in the same circumstance.
- More than 33 percent read a text message while driving, and more than a quarter admitted that they had responded to a text while driving with their children in the car.
- 13.7 percent said they’d perused social media while driving with their kids in the car.
Some things to remember when modeling good driving behavior for your teens include:
- Do not use your cell phone while driving—not even when stopped at stoplights. This includes both hand-held and hands-free devices.
- Avoid other distractions, such as applying makeup or messing with the stereo, while driving.
- Don’t speed. Follow the posted speed limit signs and slow down if the road conditions require it, even if it means driving slower than the posted limit.
- Wear your seat belt every time you’re traveling in the vehicle, either as a driver or as a passenger.
- Know the directions to where you are going or enter the address of your destination into your GPS before you start your vehicle.
- Never drive if you are drunk, drugged, or tired.
- Maintain a safe following distance—never tailgate.
- Avoid exhibiting road rage behaviors, such as honking, gesturing, or aggressively changing lanes.
- Show a driver respect when you’re a passenger by not distracting him or her. Encourage your teen driver to insist that his or her passengers offer the same respect.
Set the Rules
Teen drivers are experiencing a newfound freedom. However, you’re still the parent and you still set the rules. Rule-setting is particularly important for teens in their first year on the road, as this is the time during which they are at the greatest risk of crashing. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recommends that parents do the following:
- Know the specific teen driving laws for your state, and use those to back up any rules that you set. Nebraska’s Graduated Driver License laws can be found here.
- There are certain things that should be non-negotiable when it comes to driving. Set permanent rules from the start, such as: no cell phones while driving, always use seat belts, always obey all traffic law—including speed limits, never drive drunk, drugged, or drowsy, never get into a vehicle being driven by an impaired driver, and never ride with an inexperienced or unlicensed driver.
- You can establish other rules as time goes on, and you can provide more flexibility as your teen gains experience behind the wheel. For example, you may prohibit your teen from having any peer passengers for six months, and limit passengers to only adults and siblings who are properly restrained for another six months. You may prohibit nighttime driving at first, with some night hours added later. You may restrict your teen from driving on high-speed roads—such as interstates—until time has passed and he or she has gained experience. Also, you may not allow driving in bad weather for your teen’s first few months after becoming licensed.
Parents are also encouraged to control their teen’s access to the car keys. When first becoming licensed, the teen should have to ask permission to use the car. You can modify this rule after the teen has had some months of experience.
Was your teen injured in a car accident, or did a teenage driver injure you or someone you love? A car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options.