National Teen Driver Safety Week, which is Oct. 18-24, is designed to raise awareness of teen driving risks among parents and teenagers. The pandemic paused graduations and proms, but one rite of passage has not been put on hold for most teenagers. Teens are still able to get their driver’s license starting at age 16.
Getting behind the wheel can be one of the most exciting and dangerous times in a teenager’s life. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens 17-18 years old in the United States. As a result, driving for teenagers is more deadly than all other types of injury, disease or violence.
Safety During COVID-19
Although more people are off the roads, staying at home during the pandemic, driving is still dangerous. A report from the National Safety Council (NSC) shows that even while people were driving less during March, deaths per miles driven that same month increased 14% over March 2019.
With less traffic, safety experts predict that more drivers are speeding or driving recklessly. Studies show that teen drivers already speed and have other risky habits. Their lack of experience means they don’t always respond well to hazards.
Teen Driver Safety Issues
Inexperience contributes to thousands of teen car crashes each year. According to the NSC:
- 2 million teens under the age of 18 are in their first year of driving.
- 40% of teen crashes happen at night.
- Each year, drivers under age 18 are involved in 900,000 crashes.
- Of drivers of all ages, 16- to 19-year-olds are most likely to be in a fatal crash.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that the greatest dangers for teen drivers are:
- Alcohol consumption
- Inconsistent or no seat belt use
- Distracted driving (most often cell phone use and texting)
- Driving with passengers in the vehicle
What Parents Can Do
As a result, the NSC is interested in reducing the number of teen driver crashes by providing online educational resources. The organization offers a program for parents and teen drivers, called DriveitHome. The program offers resources and tips for parents to help their teens become safer drivers, including:
- Sign the New Driver Deal, an agreement between you and your teen about the rules and expectations when they get behind the wheel.
- Use Pointers for Parents for tips and lessons you can practice with your teen. Parents can sign up to get a new teen driving lesson each week.
- Spend 30 minutes a week driving with your teen even after they get their license.
Also, studies have found that the cars teenagers drive have an impact on their safety. Teenagers are the riskiest drivers, often driving vehicles that are less safe, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Teenagers often drive micro–, mini– and small cars, with more than two-thirds of teens driving vehicles that are between 6 and 15 years old. These cars are less likely to have safety features such as side airbags and electronic stability control, which are now universal.
Safe Used Cars for Teens
To address the issues of vehicle choice, IIHS compiles a list of safe, used vehicles. This year, the Institute partnered with Consumer Reports to incorporate reliability ratings, emergency handling and braking tests.
Parents don’t need a designated week to talk to their teens about safe driving. Driving for adults and teenagers is a privilege, not a right. Teaching your teen good driving habits is important for the safety of your teen, passengers and other drivers.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a crash due to the negligence of another driver, seek advice from Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz.