When a teen starts to drive, it’s a thrilling time for him or her, but often a terrifying time for mom and dad — and with good reason. Nearly half a million teens are injured in crashes on American roadways every year and 3,800 die.
Many factors contribute to teen driver crashes. They include driving while using alcohol or drugs and not wearing seat belts.
Kathy Monroe is the medical director of the emergency department at Children’s of Alabama. Unfortunately she sees first-hand the consequences of teens practicing unsafe behaviors behind the wheel of a car.
“Teen crashes are often caused by poor decisions like not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, or drinking and driving,” she said. “Often crashes happen due to nothing more than inexperience- they run off the edge of the road, they over correct, that leads them to crash into another car. Inexperience often leads to crashes.”
Often distractions contribute to a crash. These may take the driver’s eyes, ears and attention away from the road. The most common distractions include:
- Too many passengers in the car
- Talking on cell phones while driving
- Texting while driving
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Adjusting the radio, CD player, temperature controls, etc.
- Loud music in the car or wearing headphones
The good news is, studies show that parents can play an important role in encouraging the safety of their teen behind the wheel.
“There’s very good evidence that 1,000 miles of supervised driving with an experienced driver dramatically decreases crash rates for teen drivers,” said Monroe.
She said often parents encourage their teens to practice driving when conditions are favorable, but that’s not preparing them for real life situations. Instead, it’s important that a teen practices driving as frequently as possible in all conditions and multiple scenarios: interstate, backroads, nighttime and rain.
Not only that, remember that whenever you’re behind the wheel, your “driver in training” is watching. “No parent thinks any teen is listening to them,” Monroe said. “And they may or may not be listening but they’re watching, so know your behavior affects their behavior.”
In fact, research shows that teens involved automobile accidents are more likely to have parents who are poor drivers.
Graduated Driver License
One approach that’s been very successful in reducing teen driving accidents is the Alabama Graduated Driver License Law.
The Graduated Driver License contains three components:
- Limit of passengers
- No handheld devices
The Alabama Graduated Driver License Law places restrictions on young drivers to help ensure their safety. Parents should know this law and enforce it with their teen drivers. Your pediatrician can provide a copy of the law to you today or you can visit www.childrensal.org.
Driving is a complex skill that requires education and lots of practice. Parents play a crucial role in teaching their teens to drive safely.
For more on the Graduated Driver License Law and other safety tips for teens and parents click here for our Teen Driving Toolkit: childrensal.org/safe-teen-driving-toolkit.