Teen Driving Risks and Accident Avoidance Checklist
Getting a driver’s license is a right of passage for young adults. It not only introduces a new found freedom but it also indicates a certain amount of maturity—once you have your license, you’re an “adult.” For most young drivers, this right of passage occurs between the ages of 16 and 18 (with practice starting as young as 15).
Despite the fact that this is a common age range for new U.S. drivers, maturity and life experience play a pivotal role in safe driving—maturity and experience that teenagers just don’t have. As a result of inexperience and immaturity, young drivers account for nearly one-fifth of all fatalities on American roads.
If you are a parent, you need to know that motor vehicle-related injuries kill more children and young adults in America than any other factor. Tens of thousands of young people are killed in car accidents annually. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), car accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 20.
The NHTSA, along with other safety groups, has long been interested in the association between young drivers and traffic accidents, violations, and injuries. Latest research into this issue has provided the following alarming insights:
- Young drivers aged 16 to 20 have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates of any other age group—including the elderly.
- Young people ages 15 to 24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population but account for 30% of car collision injuries.
- More than 2,000 teens are killed in U.S. motor vehicle accidents each year, while nearly 250,000 are treated in emergency departments for car accident injuries.
- Approximately six teenagers a day succumb to fatal injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes.
The Trouble with Teenagers
It’s no surprise that young drivers lack the driving experience that most older drivers possess. As with anything in life, practice helps develop skills and awareness—young drivers haven’t had the practice to sufficiently develop these skills. However, in spite of this already dangerous disadvantage, teenagers and young adult drivers are easily distracted and further their risks by succumbing to adolescent behavior and poor decision making, such as driving erratically for “fun”, drinking before driving, texting, and driving while tired.
The Solution—Enforcing Safety and Maturity
The phrase “kids will be kids” is often thrown around by parents to excuse their child’s juvenile and unsafe behavior. However, when it comes to potentially causing a car accident, a vague excuse isn’t enough. Having a driver’s license isn’t only a symbol of adulthood, it is a contract that demands responsibility, maturity, and safety. If your child doesn’t understand that, perhaps he isn’t ready to make the transition. As a parent, you could help him realize the importance of his contract by making sure he realizes the importance of safety and the consequences of risks.
By educating him on driving safety, you can not only help him avoid serious injury but also help him to avoid harming others in a disastrous collision. A good safe-driving checklist includes:
- Familiarity with drinking and driving campaigns. “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” “Impaired Driving is Drunk Driving,” MADD sponsored educational programs, etc.
- Familiarity with seat belt safety campaigns. “Click It or Ticket,” “Child Seat Safety,” “Buckle Up America,” etc.
- Familiarity with phone use laws, as covered under the Texas phone ordinance.
- Familiarity with state traffic laws; see The Texas Driver Handbook, Teen Driving by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Safety and Laws page from the Texas Department of Transportation.
Talk to your kids about safe driving practices and share this article on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to help your friends and family learn more about teen driving risks and safety. Together we can help raise our children to be safe drivers and decrease young adult collision rates.
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