Driving at any age comes with a variety of risks. Inexperience, distraction — even gender — all impact the health and safety of people behind the wheel (as well as beyond the dash). Research shows, however, that newly licensed drivers carry the most risk. According to Safe Roads Alliance, “43% of first-year drivers and 37% of second-year drivers are involved in car crashes.” Because most newly licensed drivers are teenage ones, it follows, then, that teen drivers are at particular risk for car crashes and car-related death.
Indeed, traffic accidents are the number one cause of death for children (ages 1-19) in the United States. Nevertheless, parents don’t have to sit by in terror as their children approach the age of 16. There are ways to mitigate the danger that new teen drivers face. Here are a few tips:
Make Driver’s Ed Mandatory
Research by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute concludes that inexperience accounts for the top three reasons teen drivers are involved in traffic accidents: they forget to scan the road for hazards, often speed and are easily distracted. Professional driving classes can help a new driver gain exposure to real driving scenarios. And let’s face it; many teens listen more when a non-related adult gives them advice, making it likely that good information will “stick” in their minds.
Of course, successful completion of a driver’s safety course will never fully prepare a new driver, but it will add valuable hours to his or her practical training. And the more supervised practice he has, the better a new driver will be when he actually hits the road on his own.
Remove Distractions From The Teen Driving Experience
Another way for parents to alleviate some of the inherent dangers of teen driving is to remove some of the manual and cognitive distractions that often go along with it: phones, radio dials, passengers and eating while driving are just some of the common diversions kids face when they get behind the wheel. Parents can help their teens avoid these distractions by implementing cell phone blocking technologies that control phone use while driving and by requiring their teen to sign a driving contract before gaining use of the car.
A document that outlines the expectations and responsibilities of driving (such as wearing seatbelts, limiting radio use, restricting the number and ages of passengers and avoiding drive-thrus) provides teens with unequivocal guidelines for their behavior and are no different than the instructions given to any other inexperienced population with the intent of delivering direction and, thus, maximizing performance. For example, a realtor, policeman, business immigration lawyer, teacher and more all use rules and regulations to distribute information, maintain control and ensure safety. Parents should, too!
Regularly Evaluate Health Concerns
Finally, our health affects our judgment, whether new to the road or not. Parents can teach their teen drivers to regularly assess their own physical and mental condition and allow them to drive only when they feel healthy and confident. Fatigue frequently impacts driving skills, with inadequate sleep diminishing focus and delaying the response. Kids need to learn to recognize when they are too tired to drive, under the influence of alcohol, medicine and/or drugs or simply just have too much on their mind to concentrate fully.
Furthermore, if a teen has ADHD, is autistic, suffers from epilepsy or has any other medical concerns, he or she also needs to be able to self-evaluate that condition in relation to his or her driving skills. Parents can help their teen identify the symptoms that warrant him or her staying out of the driver’s seat, keeping everyone safer!