What can we do to support National Teen Driver Safety Week?
This week (October 19-25) is National Teen Driver Safety Week. As adults, it is so important that we serve as a good role models for teen drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of 14 to 18-year-olds in the U.S. In 2012, there were 2,055 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes and 859 (42%) of those teen drivers were killed in the crashes. Let’s use this week as an opportunity to reduce those numbers.
The theme this year is “5 to Drive” and I hope every single parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or anyone who knows a teen driver, will reinforce the message and take a pledge on our Jaffarian Facebook page to honor the tenants of the “5 to Drive” campaign, sponsored by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to a recent survey quoted on the NHTSA website, only 25 percent of parents even take the time to talk with their teens about the dangers of driving. Parents are the most important part of the solution. Speak to your teens not only about the dangers of driving and following the “Five to Drive,” but also as a passenger. Most people know that passengers are generally at higher risk of death in traffic accidents than drivers. Most teens have cell phones. Make sure your teen knows to call you for a ride rather than get into a vehicle when they don’t feel safe. Commit these to memory for when you have the opportunity to speak with a teen driver:
1. Alcohol: Teen drivers are at a greater risk of death in alcohol-related crashes compared to drivers in all other age groups, even though they’re too young to legally buy or drink alcohol. In 2012, 28 percent of the young drivers (15 to 20-years old) who were killed in crashes had a high blood alcohol level.
2. Seat belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. Whether it’s immaturity or a false perception that they’re invincible—teens aren’t buckling up. In 2012, of all the young (15- to 20-year-old) passenger vehicle drivers killed in crashes, more than half (55%) of those killed were not wearing seat belts.
3. Texting: Texting or dialing while driving is more than just risky—it’s deadly. In 2012, among drivers 15 to 19-years-old who were distracted in fatal crashes, nearly 1 in 5 were distracted by phones. This age group had the highest percentage of drivers distracted by phone use. In Massachusetts, it is again the law for anyone to text and drive and it is against the law for drivers under age 18 to use cell phones at all.
4. Speeding: In 2012, speeding was a factor in almost half (48%) of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers.
5. Passengers: Teens may be very social, but the car isn’t the place to socialize. Extra passengers for a teen driver can lead to disastrous results. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Allstate Foundation, half of all teen drivers even admit that they are safer drivers without their friends as passengers.
Parents – please be part of the solution by talking to your teens and setting a good example for them.
Let’s use the week of Teen Driver Safety Week to start the conversation and also acknowledge that driving distracted is not just a teenage issue, but a national issue. Take the pledge now to not drive distracted and to follow the “5 to Drive” points of this year’s theme. As role models, we can make a difference, and together we can change driving habits and save lives. Many auto schools recommend that you contract with your teens as they start to drive. If you have never tried this with your teen, this is a great time to make that happen. Keep it visible and remind them of how much you care and that you want to remind them to return home safely.
Other things we can do as parents is to write your teen a letter, leave notes in the car before they drive off, or use social media to message them and remind them of the “5 to Drive” points.
Just like when they were little, they will mimic the behaviors they see. This is a great reminder to be good role models as drivers and to have open and honest conversations about the importance of driving safely.
Best wishes to all parents and teens and safe driving!