Teens and Seat Belts: How to Protect Your Child From a Car Accident Injury
No parent has ever been 100% thrilled when a child receives his driver’s license. Proud, maybe; but thrilled? No. Although some of this worry can be blamed on overprotective parental nerves, the rest could be considered justifiable concern. Teenagers and young adults have the highest average crash and traffic violation rates of any age group. This statistic in itself is enough to justify a little parental panic on how your child will behave behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just what he does that can hurt him, but what he doesn’t do that is cause for alarm. Compared with other age groups, teens and young adults aged 13 to 20 have the worst record for using seat belts.
It is critical for their safety that teens wear seat belts every single time they get into a car, whether driving or not. In fact, it should be an automatic gesture—they sit, they buckle, and then they turn the ignition or wait for the driver to do so.
However, many teens “forget,” refuse, or actively avoid wearing their belts properly. This choice not only is a violation of the law, it also dramatically increases their chance of suffering serious, even fatal, car accident injuries.
The Unbridled Facts
Studies performed by the Center for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggest the following disturbing statistics on teenage car accident injuries and seat belt use:
- Approximately 80% of teenage drivers and passengers wear their seat belts on a regular basis.
- Approximately 68% of teenagers killed in nighttime accidents are unrestrained.
- Approximately 56% of the teens who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2013 were not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact.
- Approximately 45% of high school students polled in 2013 reported that they occasionally do not wear seat belts when riding with someone else.
The most startling statistic, however, is that the number of unbelted teen drivers and passengers continues to grow every year.
Buckling Down on Seat Belt Use
Parents should be encouraging seat belt use way before their children are old enough to drive. In fact, by modeling safe behavior and teaching kids the reasons they need to use their seat belts, a parent may increase his teen’s chance of surviving a crash. Unfortunately, this is more easily said than done—especially at this age (teenagers tend to be in their own little worlds).
However, with persistence, you can use the following tips to motivate your teen to be safe and secure:
- Promote awareness. Make sure your child witnesses you buckling up every time you get into a car, as well as actively pointing out when others fail to do so. By continuously reinforcing the action, your child will mimic your behavior and internalize the importance of the action.
- Reinforce good behavior. Before you take your foot off the brake, always make sure your child is buckled properly. It doesn’t matter if he is nine years old or 19 years old; he needs to know that he must be buckled before a vehicle begins to move.
- Denounce bad behavior. Take disciplinary action immediately if you catch your child failing to use his seat belt. Suggested actions include taking away his car privileges or making him run errands with you to prove that he can buckle up every time he gets into a car (even if that means buckling up 20 different times).
- Emphasize consequences. Talk to your teen about the serious injuries and the potential death that can result from failing to use proper restraints. Although he may hear it at school or in driver’s education class, hearing it from you may make the difference.
Since changing behavior in teens can be difficult, there is no single way to ensure that your teen will buckle up every time he gets into a car. But, now that you’re equipped with the knowledge, you have the resources to prepare your teen and help him realize the importance of always using his seat belt.
To help raise awareness of this issue and to help other parents get the information they need to prepare their teens, please share this blog with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, or email. You never know if your simple click could make the difference in a teen’s future.