Focusing on Teen Driver Safety

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. Per mile driven, teen drivers, between the ages of 16 and 19, are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be involved in a fatal crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers parents and teens a variety of resource to help improve teen driver safety.

Teen Crash Facts

• In 2010, about 2,700 teens, between the ages of 16 and 19, were killed in crashes.
• Nearly 282,000 teens were injured in crashes in 2010.
• In 2011, 2,105 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes.
• 45 percent of those teen drivers died in crashes.
• 20 percent of the teen drivers killed in crashes did not have valid driver’s licenses.

Risk-Increasing Factors

There are a variety of factors that actually put teen drivers at greater risk. First, teen drivers are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations than older drivers. They may not be able to recognize potentially hazardous situations before it’s too late. Teen drivers are also at a particularly high risk of being involved in a crash during their first month of licensure. Additionally, the presence of a male teen passenger increases the likelihood of risky driving behaviors. In fact, the addition of each teen passenger increases the risk of having a crash. Of male teen drivers, where fatal crashes occurred, speeding and drinking are two contributing factors. Finally, teen drivers have the lowest rate of seat belt use when compared with other driver age groups.

What Can Parents Do?

The most important thing a parent can do is talk to their teen drivers about safe driving habits. It’s also important to set a good example behind the wheel. The NHTSA reports that teens whose parents impose driving restrictions typically engage in less risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer crashes. Setting ground rules and outlining potential consequences is a great way to impose restrictions with a new driver. If you’re not sure where to start, Safercar.gov offers a great outline of basic rules for teen drivers. Finally, making a commitment to distraction-free driving is absolutely essential for teens and their parents.

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