According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), summer is the most dangerous time of the year for teen drivers, with the “100 deadliest days” commencing on Memorial Day and extending through Labor Day. Last month, as part of the National Organization for Youth Safety’s (NOYS) Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, teens tweeted “safe” selfies using #TrafficSafeSelfie to promote and encourage safe driving among their peers. But what can you, as a parent, do to ensure their safety for the rest of the season?
WHY IS SUMMER SO DANGEROUS FOR TEEN DRIVERS?
According to the NHTSA, 1,000 people were killed in crashes involving teens during the “100 deadliest days” of 2012. Studies show that first year drivers are most at risk. Common negligent behavior includes not wearing a seatbelt, texting while driving, and breaking state laws regarding passenger restrictions for teens.
A combination of being off from school, loads of free time, longer days, summer fun including graduation and other parties, and increased road construction all add up to more havoc on the roadways.
PASSENGERS NOW THOUGHT TO BE ONE OF BIGGEST RISK FACTORS
According to John Ulczycki, the National Safety Council‘s vice president of strategic initiatives, passengers are now thought to be a greater safety disadvantage than suspected. “We have always known that passengers were a big risk for teens, but what we’re really finding out now is passengers may be one of the most important risks for teens, even more so than things like texting,” he said.
According to the National Safety Council, passengers in a car with a teen driver increase the risk of a fatal crash by 44%.
As Ulczycki points out, “passengers are a distraction the entire time a teen is driving, whereas the distraction from texting is probably limited to the seconds or minutes they’re looking at screens instead of the road.” Nowhere is this truer than in the case of new drivers who need to be focusing 100% on the road.
MN PASSENGER RESTRICTIONS
In Minnesota, drivers are only allowed one passenger under the age of twenty for the first six months of driving, up to three passengers under the age of twenty for the second six months, unless a parent or guardian is present.
In the end though, it is up to the parent to decide and enforce a restriction on passengers. Although your teen might think of you as the ultimate killjoy, baring other teen passengers for the first year of driving is reasonable if it means keeping your teen alive.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO KEEP YOUR TEEN DRIVERS SAFE?
Make sure they wear their seatbelts all the time, regardless of whether they are driving or just a passenger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in seven drivers still don’t wear their seatbelt despite widespread campaigns to educate the public on seatbelt efficacy. The CDC states that risk of serious injury is actually cut in half by obeying this common sense law.
Talk to them about the dangers of driving with teen passengers and make sure they follow MN’s laws if they are new to the road.
Limit driving time to trips with a purpose, not just joy riding. Limit night driving and enforce a driving curfew.
Make sure they have a good pair of sunglasses and they wear them. Being a new driver is hard enough without squinting through harsh summertime glare.
Ask them questions before they leave such as: Where are you going? Who are you going with? and When will you be back?
Don’t neglect to talk with your teen about underage drinking. Just because it is illegal doesn’t mean they, or someone they’re getting into a car with, won’t do it. Make sure they can feel safe to call you for a ride if they need to.
Discourage the use of cruise control. You want your teen to be as alert as possible. Using cruise control really does put the driver in an automatic pilot state of mind, possibly leading to a collision that would have been avoided if the teen was focusing intently on driving.
Choose a safe car for your teen to drive. There are differences in how different types of vehicles handle on the road, for example a pickup versus a sedan. Choose a starter car that is low to the ground to limit the chance of rollover and avoid sports cars or any car that has too much power under the hood, or give a reason to show off on the street.
Check into how technology can help. One example is Ford’s MyKey which allows parents to program settings that require seatbelt use, limit top speeds, and control the volume of the radio.
Invest in a GPS so your teen isn’t tempted to use their smart phone. If they are getting away for the weekend, or driving to a place they haven’t driven before, sit down together and plan their course with them. It will put both your minds at ease.
Talk to your teen about the dangers of distracted driving e.g. talking on the phone, texting, taking selfies, eating or applying makeup while driving, goofing off/horseplay, and messing with the radio controls.
See our full article on distracted driving here.
We also have some great tips for staying off your phone while driving:
Summer is a time for fun, relaxation, trips to the beach, and hanging out with friends. But that doesn’t mean all responsibility is forgotten. Take the time to explain the risks of summer driving to your teens, especially the added risk of driving with passengers. Everyone wants to enjoy their summer, but everyone also wants to survive to enjoy next summer even more.