Parents have good reason to be concerned when their teen gets behind the wheel. Young, inexperienced drivers are the most crash-prone drivers on the road, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America.
Parental involvement is a key component in the development of safe young drivers, and as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, NHTSA offers the following advice to parents and caregivers of teen drivers:
Talk to your teen about alcohol – In 2010, 22 percent of the young drivers involved in fatal crashes were drinking. All states have 21-year-old minimum-drinking-age laws. Talk to your teen about the risks of both drinking and driving, and of riding with an impaired driver. (Use MADD’s Power of Parents® handbook to help get the conversation started.)
Learn and follow your state graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws – GDL systems have been shown to reduce teen crashes. All states have three-stage GDL programs (learner's permit, intermediate or provisional license, full licensure). During the process, restrictions are put in place so young drivers can gain critical driving experience in lower-risk situations and a gradual introduction to more complex tasks through controlled exposure to high-risk situations.
Encourage your teen to always buckle up – Wearing a seat belt is the most effective protection for drivers and passengers in the event of a crash. In 2010, three out of five 16- to 20-year-old occupants killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing seatbelts.
Create and sign a parent-teen driving contract – A parent-teen driving contract sets ground rules and creates and explains the consequences of breaking those rules. This ensures teen accountability, ownership of expectations and an understanding that driving is a privilege that can be revoked.
Limit teen passengers and night driving – A NHTSA analysis found teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer compared to when driving alone. That risk increased with multiple passengers. In 2010, 1,326 passengers in young drivers' vehicles were killed in crashes involving young drivers. Most nighttime fatal crashes of young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. NHTSA recommends a maximum of one passenger in the car with your teen at all times (no passengers if required by your state GDL law) and nighttime driving restrictions starting no later than 10 p.m.
Prohibit the use of electronic devices while driving – Driving while talking on the phone or while texting is risky for all drivers, but especially for teens. In 2010, 368 teen drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were distracted, accounting for 13 percent of all distracted driving fatalities.