Driving. It’s something that almost every single teenager in the United States looks forward to when they turn 16. It brings freedom, responsibility, freedom, and more freedom.
It’s both a blessing and a nightmare. Although you may not have to drive your teenager every single place that they go anymore, you also have to trust them to behave rationally in their car.
Age isn’t Just a Number
Unfortunately, teenagers aren’t exactly known for making rational decisions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
“The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16-19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.”
That’s why it’s so important that you communicate with your teenager and set ground rules for driving.
Help Them Understand the Dangers of Distracted Driving
Whether it’s texting a friend, answering a phone call, eating a sandwich, using a GPS, or playing with the music, distracted driving causes thousands of accidents each year.
In fact, around 9 people are killed each day in distracted driving incidents and over 1,000 are injured.
The biggest offenders?
Help your child understand these dangers so that they don’t become just another statistic.
Show Them the Importance of Seat Belts
One of the best ways to get your child to exhibit safe driving behavior is to be a model of it from day one. Although we have come a long way in ensuring that people in cars buckle up, we still have ways to go in keeping teenagers safe.
According to the CDC, young adults (ages 18-24) are less likely to wear seatbelts than their older counterparts.
This is troubling considering that over half of teens (13-19) and adults (20-44) who died in a car accident in 2015 were not wearing a seatbelt.
Show your teen the importance of wearing a seatbelt by wearing yours every time you’re in the car with them, and help them understand that it could save their life someday.
Set a Limit for Number of Passengers
One of the most dangerous things that a teenage driver can do is have passengers in the car with them. Further, the more passengers that they have in the car with them, the more likely they are to engage in reckless behaviors such as speeding and disobeying traffic laws.
However, it isn’t just showing off and participating in risky behavior that’s at fault. Part of this is due to the fact that teenager’s brains haven’t developed to the point of understanding the extent to which their risky behavior can affect them.
For every teen passenger that you add to your teen’s car, their risk of being involved in an accident increases.
Set rules for passengers in the car, or get them a car that can’t hold several passengers.
Provide an Outlet for Transportation if They’ve Been Drinking
Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous things that a driver can do.
Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs is one of the most dangerous behaviors that a teenager (or anyone for that matter) can do in the car.
Although you may not want to think that your child is participating in drug or alcohol use, the reality is that some of them are. Even if they aren’t, some of their friends may be doing it.
Ignoring this reality and not providing your child with an outlet to get home if they or their friends have been drinking can lead to tragedy.
Whether you tell them that they can call you, provide your credit card for emergencies (maybe an Uber, for example), or anything else that you can think of, they need to have an alternative to driving under the influence or riding in a car with someone who is driving under the influence.
Limit Nighttime Driving
While almost every teen has been told about the dangers of driving under the influence, few know the dangers of driving at night.
Of all teen deaths in car accidents, the fatal crash rate of 16-year olds is around twice as high when driving at night.
Set limits and curfews for when your teen is allowed to be driving, and have a system in place in the event that you find out they have broken these rules.
Learning to Trust Your Teen
Although you may have some anxiety about your teenager driving on their own, you’re going to have to learn to trust your teenager once you have your system in place.
If they break the rules, don’t be afraid to follow through on your punishment.
If your teenager has been involved in an accident or was in a vehicle that experienced an accident, contact one of our experienced attorneys immediately to see what your next step should be.
Photos courtesy of NHTSA.gov.