Your son or daughter is getting close to being 16-years old and the only thing they can think about is the freedom that comes with getting their license. However, before you allow your teen to get behind the wheel of a car, did you know that car accidents are the leading cause of death in teenagers nationwide? Did you know that men and women between the ages of 16 to 19-years of age are involved in more wrecks and traffic violations than any other segment of the driving population? This means that during the first three years of the average person’s driving career, this is when they are typically most dangerous behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. What is also important to be aware of are the top reasons why teens end up in car accidents. This information might help a parent to set some ground rules that could potentially save their child’s life or perhaps the life of another.
1. Driving And Alcohol
As much as parents might like to imagine their child would never do it, every year thousands of teenagers drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car. Part of this behavior is simply teens wanting to do what their friends are doing, such as drinking, but then they are afraid to call a parent to come to pick them up. (source) Parents could easily eliminate literally thousands of fatal car accidents each year, involving their own kids, if they would just sit their kids down and let them know that it is always okay for them to call for a ride if they are drunk. Because the life a teen may destroy behind the wheel while drunk may not simply be their own. As a parent, you have to ask yourself, which is more important? Is it more important to be mad at your kid because they drink? Or, is it more important to encourage your child to call for a ride when they are drunk and save their life as well as the lives of others? This is a serious matter that needs to be ironed out long before a parent ever allows their child to ever have a set of keys to a car.
2. Night Time Driving
Part of the attraction of being able to drive at a young age is having the ability to drive around at night. Unfortunately, for a lot of novice teen drivers, this is not always as safe as they or their parents might be inclined to think. In some cases, the teen is out too late and starts to get drowsy behind the wheel. Or, they might be on their way home from a friend’s house and not as alert and aware as they are during the daytime. Mile for mile, the California Department Of Motor Vehicles reports that the likelihood that a teen will be in an accident is three times higher at night than it is during the daytime. (source)
3. Additional Passengers
If you think driving drunk is dangerous for your teen to be doing, then you should consider how dangerous it is for them to have other teen passengers in the car. Additional teen passengers in the car can increase the risk of causing a fatal accident to be twice as likely than if the teen driver was drunk on average. (source) Other teen passengers tend to be distracters as they may irritate a novice driver or cause them to take their eyes off the road to turn around and speak to someone in the back seat. A lot of teen drivers that do this don’t pause to recognize how quick an accident can occur when they divert their eyes from the road.
Often teens behind the wheel are impatient or in a hurry to get somewhere. The tendency for a teen to speed is sometimes too great of a temptation to resist. Yet, doing so can cause a major hazard to themselves and other drivers. The likelihood that a teen will cause an accident increases even more for every mile they go above the speed limit. (source) A teenager needs to firmly understand that speed limits are imposed for everyone’s safety and that this isn’t a video game.
5. Cell Phone Use While Driving
Although cell phones are a great modern convenience, teenagers abuse the use of cell phones while driving. Nine out of every ten teens reports seeing other teens using a cell phone while driving. (source) From talking on their cell phone to texting while driving, there is always the hazard of taking one’s eyes off the road or hands off the wheel when operating a cell phone while driving. In a split second, the car can become a deadly weapon that the teen has no control over.
6. Failure To Use A Seatbelt
Whether it is done out of rebellion or out of sheer negligence on the part of a teen driver, it turns out that teens typically refuse or forget to wear their seatbelt while driving. It is no surprise that the number of teen drivers who experience a fatal crash are unrestrained by a seatbelt at the rate of six out of every ten teen driver fatalities. In other words, this is approximately two-thirds of every teen killed in a car accident is the result of not wearing proper seating restraints while driving. (source) This cause of death for teen drivers happens to rate as the number one reason for teen driver fatalities.
7. Close to Home
According to Progressive Auto Insurance, 52% of reported car crashes happen within a 5-mile radius of the home. Kevin Pettiette, owner of Smokey’s Garage Door in Scottsdale, AZ isn’t surprised by this statistic. Smokey’s sees a lot of clients whose teen trashed their garage door carelessly while backing out or parking their vehicles. Pettiette’s comments would explain in part the statistic reported by Progressive: teens drive with less care when closer to home.
Despite the fact that there are ample causes for teen-related driving accidents and fatalities, this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to mitigate the severity of this ongoing problem. The combination of parental intervention and improvements in technology to prevent car accidents can go a long way to decreasing the number of crashes and fatalities that teen drivers are involved in. Of course, there does not exist at present any crash-proof car out on the road today. But, teaching a teen to be responsible behind the wheel of a car with meaningful consequences for not being responsible can go a long way towards saving the life of your teen driver and the lives of others on the road.