Teen Driving Information
For most teens, getting a driver’s license is exciting and liberating. For their parents, however, it can be an anxiety-filled time. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, and teens are four times more likely to be in a crash than older drivers.
While these statistics are sobering, there are steps parents can take to help keep their teens safe. Leading by example, and talking to kids early and often about the risks and responsibilities of driving can help teens avoid accidents and become safe drivers, say experts featured on Be Smart. Be Well. Teen Driving.
"Parents play a key role in preventing teen crashes. Believe it or not, when asked whose opinions they listen to, teens most often said their parents," says Erin Sauber-Schatz, PhD, MPH, of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one of the experts featured on the site
How dangerous is it?
Each year, about 3,000 teens are killed in motor-vehicle crashes. That’s eight teens every day. And every year more than 350,000 teens are treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in a crash every year.
The danger for teens is highest at night. New drivers are almost twice as likely to have a fatal crash at night. Add some friends, regardless of the time of day, and the risk for an accident goes up significantly. Two-thirds of fatal teen-driver crashes happen when a new driver has one or more teen passengers.
Why teens crash
While some teens are more likely to engage in risky behavior such as speeding or not wearing a seat belt, it’s important parents understand that all teens are at risk for an accident. That’s because inexperience is the leading crash risk, with most teen crashes occurring in the first six months of having a license. It doesn’t matter if someone is a good student or a bad one. If the teen is a new driver, he or she is at risk.
According to research by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), these three common errors lead to the majority of serious teen-driver crashes:
- failing to scan the surroundings and inability to detect and respond to hazards
- going too fast for conditions
- being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle
The more experience a teen driver has, the less likely he or she is to make these mistakes.
"If a teen takes something that they’re really good at – be it sports, art, playing an instrument or even playing video games – and they think back to when they first started doing that skill, they probably weren’t very good," says the CDC’s Sauber-Schatz. "As they worked on that skill and practiced, they got better at that skill. It’s the same for driving. It’s a new skill that they have to learn and they need to practice."
What can parents do?
Parents can help teens gain experience and become safe drivers through a variety of actions, including:
1. Lead by example
2. Help teens get the practice they need
3. Know your GDL
4. Establish rules and expectations
5. Sign a parent-teen driving agreement