As a parent, you may feel a combination of nerves and excitement as your teen gets his/her driver’s license. It can be a relief when they can get themselves to and from school, after-school activities, and plans with their friends.
However, the time you get back from all the driving you used to do may be spent worrying about your kids and traffic accidents. The statistics are tough. Car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths, and in 2016, 2,433 teens were killed in crashes, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hundreds of thousands more were treated in emergency rooms for car wreck injuries.
As a mom or dad, you should be aware of the most common risk factors for teen crashes and what you may be able to do to protect your child and their passengers.
Common Factors in Teen Car Crashes
All types of behavior and circumstances can lead to a car crash. However, certain factors are most common among teen traffic accidents, including:
- Reaching for objects
- Bad weather (rain, snow, ice, etc.)
According to the CDC, teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and to keep a shorter distance between themselves and the car ahead of them. More experienced drivers know that this can be a recipe for disaster, particularly if the car ahead of them stops suddenly or the teen driver is distracted by a cell phone, music, food or drink, or passengers.
Reaching for objects creates a greater risk for a crash than you may realize. Researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) studied teen drivers and found those who reach for objects while driving increase their risk of a crash sevenfold. The researchers also found a teen manually dialing, texting, or browsing on a phone doubled the risk of a wreck.
What Can Parents Do?
Talk about safety
Before your child gets their driver’s license and can officially head out on the road without an adult in the car, it is essential you start having conversations about driving safety and what teens can do to avoid a crash. Don’t just have this talk once. It should be a routine conversation around your home. You need to reinforce their good habits, and you should always display those good habits when you drive them.
You can set rules for while your teens drive, including turning off their cell phone, keeping the music low or off, and having only one passenger at a time. Limiting passengers is essential to reducing the risk of distraction. Many teens are apt to pay more attention to several friends in the car than their driving.
Limit when your teen drives
You can limit the amount of risky driving your teen is able to do. Teens need a great deal of sleep, and when they do not get it, their risk of a car crash goes up. If you noticed your teen is not sleeping well, do not give them the keys to the car.
Most teen car crashes happen between Friday and Sunday and between the hours of 3 p.m. and midnight. You can take that into consideration when allowing your teen to drive or deciding to drive them yourself. Friday and Saturday night drives may be too dangerous, especially if you worry about your teen participating in other risky behavior.
Consider purchasing a new vehicle
You may be wary of buying your teenager a new car, but if that is an option, seriously consider it. Vehicles manufactured in recent years have far more safety features, like braking and lane assistance, which can help your teen stay out of wrecks.
You can look into utilizing new vehicle technology or apps that limit what your teen can do while driving. There are phone silencing apps, text message alerts, GPS tracking, and more that you can install on your teen’s phone.
Also, many manufacturers now offer some sort of technology that is intended to keep track of teen drivers or limit the risks they can take. For example, Ford offers “MyKey” technology, which has two different key fobs. The key fob for your teen controls how fast they can drive, how loud the radio can go, has GPS tracking, and several other features. Chevrolet offers “Teen Driver” technologies in their vehicles, Hyundai has “Blue Link,” and Volkswagen has the “Car-Net” app.