It’s October. The sun is setting earlier every day and when daylight saving time ends, we’ll lose an hour of daylight overnight. October 20 – 26 is National Teen Driver Safety Week and whether your teens are new drivers or riding around with new drivers, now is a good time to talk to them about how to be safe out on the roads.
According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 18-year olds in the United States. Because teen drivers don’t have much experience driving, they are four times as likely to be involved in a crash. One second is all it takes to change the course of their lives.
Talk to them early and often. Here are a few talking points to keep your teens safe:
Distractions are Everywhere
Driving uses a lot of brain power. With all the information needing to be processed, driving can be overwhelming for new drivers. Because they have less experience driving, teens are already in more danger without any added distractions like smartphones or radios. They need to keep their eyes on the road, free from any obstacles.
They should also keep the radio down so they can listen for any potential dangers that aren’t in front of them. Since they’re new, they don’t know all the situations that can pop up. There are too many to even list here, but when you share your experiences with them, they will understand better. And they’ll be safer.
An often overlooked distraction is emotion. Everyone gets emotional from time to time. A strong emotional state can cause drivers to speed or daydream, increasing their risk of crashing. Whether they’re stressed, sad or angry, teens should be aware strong emotions reduce a driver’s ability to pay attention to the road.
Don’t Overcrowd the Vehicle
Studies show there’s a correlation between the number of passengers in a vehicle and a teen driver’s risk of crashing. The more passengers, the higher the risk of crashing. Passengers are a big distraction for new drivers. And teens are more likely to pile in.
Never “lap-up” and never ever put someone in the trunk. As ridiculous as that sounds, it needs to be said aloud. It’s been done before. Driving is no time for horseplay.
Every time your teens sit in a car, they need to buckle up immediately. All drivers, regardless of age, should only take as many passengers as there are available seat belts.
Never Ride With an Impaired Driver
There are different types of impairment. Most often we think of drug and alcohol impairment, which are inexcusable, but being drowsy is also an impairment.
Teen drivers should know that driving while sleep deprived or on medication with drowsiness side effects can be just as deadly as driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. When drowsy, a driver has slower reaction times or may fall asleep behind the wheel. It just isn’t worth driving under those conditions. Tell your teens it’s better to just stay where they are and take a nap until they are rested.
Teens should never drink alcohol before they reach the legal age limit. The majority of them don’t. But some do. And sometimes teens mistakenly think they can help an upset, drunk friend get home more safely by riding with them.
Make sure your teen knows there is nothing they can do from the passenger seat except become a victim. Talk to your teen about finding another ride home. They need to call you, use a rideshare app or call a cab. They must never ride with a drunk or drugged driver.
Teens surveyed said they were less likely to use a cell phone while driving and more likely to wear seatbelts if their parents were highly supportive and highly monitoring. Those who reported having more relaxed or uninvolved parents were more likely to engage in risky behaviors, increasing their crash risk. MADD urges you to talk to your teens about good driving behaviors. It could save their lives and others.