Safe Driving & Reducing Risks for Teen Drivers
The first day you let your teenage son or daughter behind the wheel can be tough. You know this is a skill they need to learn – and they need to learn it well to keep themselves as safe as possible. You also cannot help but feel like your child is growing up too fast and soon will be an adult who is ready for college and a career. As a parent, it is important to set these emotions aside during your driving lessons. This is a time when your child needs your cool-headed guidance. You are the best person to teach your teen safe driving skills, which can keep them out of an accident.
Know the Risks
The CDC states the biggest group at risk for a fatal crash is 16 to 19 year olds, with 16 and 17 years old facing a much higher risk than 18 and 19 year olds. Your teen is particularly at risk during the first few months of having their license. Within the teen age group, males have a higher risk of an accident than their female peers. Teens who drive with other adolescent passengers increase their chance of a crash significantly.
The CDC also lists a number of risks factors associated with teen accidents:
- Teens don’t recognize hazardous situations or they underestimate how dangerous a situation is.
- Teens are more likely to speed.
- Teens don’t keep as much distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead of them.
- Close to half of teen accidents occur between 3 p.m. and midnight.
- Over half of teen accidents occur on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
- Teens have a low rate of seat belt use.
- Teens have a high rate of impaired driving.
Inexperience Is the Biggest Risk to Teen Safe Driving
Inexperience is often cited as the most significant factor in teen accidents. Based on a study conducted by AAA and the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center in 2010, parents are not spending enough time teaching their children to drive. You can help your teen gain experience before they get their license. Take your child driving consistently through the week. Start in parking lots, move up to calm neighborhood roads, then city streets, and then the highway. Take your child out at different times, including at dusk and nighttime, and during different types of weather.
The AAA recommends parents spend at least 100 hours supervising their teen while they have their permit. This seems like a lot of time. Yet, if you take your teen driver for two hours at a time, three days per week, you will hit 100 hours in less than 17 weeks.
Discuss Your Teen’s Fearlessness
Another detriment to teen safe driving is your child’s innate sense of invincibility. They feel like something bad will never happen to them. Have an honest discussion with your child about their risk of an accident and the issues that increase their chance of crashing, such as speeding, tailgating, being on their phone, talking with friends, alcohol, and marijuana. It’s a difficult conversation, but hopefully your teen driver absorbs a sense of caution.
Here are some tips for talking with your teen about driving.
Consider Limiting Nighttime Driving
The first year your teen has a license, they are not allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent, guardian, or instructor, or if they are driving to or from school, work, or a medical emergency. This is part of Colorado’s graduated licensing system and is because adolescents face a high risk of accidents at night. However, nighttime starts long before midnight, and researchers from the CDC found more than half of nighttime accidents took place before midnight.
Your teen driver needs practice driving at dusk and after dark. That practice should be with you or another adult in the car. Depending on your and your teen’s circumstances, it may be best to limit how much your son or daughter drives at night in the first year or two of having their license.
Talk With Your Teen About Seatbelts
As you teach your son or daughter to drive, take the time to explain the importance of seat belts and consistently remind them to buckle up before driving. According to the CDC, teen drivers have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2015, only 61 percent of high school students reported always wearing their seat belt. Remind your child that safe driving requires wearing their seat belt no matter what seat they are in and no matter how much they trust the driver. Being in the back seat is not an excuse to go without a seatbelt.
Dispel the Myth of Driving on Autopilot
It is essential that you speak with your child about the myth of adults driving on autopilot. Teen drivers often think that the tasks required for driving will quickly become second nature, and they will be able to go on their way without thinking much about it. The truth is safe driving for teens requires their full attention. They need to keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road, and their mind on their task. Any manual, visual, or cognitive distraction, daydreaming, or so-called autopilot significantly increases the risk of a crash.
Also, remind your son or daughter to put their phone away while they drive or to have a passenger do the texting.
Don’t Ignore the Risks of Alcohol and Drugs
It’s all too easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to your teen and their friends’ use of alcohol and drugs like marijuana. However, you need to be practical to protect your child. Many teens drink and imbibe marijuana, and you need to prepare your teen to be responsible. Discuss using designated drivers, paying for a rideshare vehicle, or calling you for a safe ride. Learn more about what to expect when facing an Underage DUI.
Contact a Denver-area Attorney
Jennifer Donaldson is an experienced personal injury attorney in Denver, CO, who represents victims of auto collisions. As a personal injury attorney, she sees, first hand, the problems that can arise with young people driving in a negligent or careless manner. Prevent your child from being civilly or criminally liable for reckless or negligent driving by talking to them about the seriousness of safe driving. Call Law Office of Jennifer L. Donaldson at (720) 487-1354 now for more information about how distracted or careless driving on Colorado roadways can lead to criminal or civil liability.
Jennifer Donaldson serves clients in Glendale, Holly Hills, Commerce City, Northglenn, Berkley, Dakota Ridge, Lakewood, Edgewater, Mountain View, Wheat Ridge, Lakeside, Aurora, Littleton, Englewood, Bow Mar, Sheridan, Cherry Hills Village, and Greenwood Village.