Helping Teens Become Safe Drivers

Every day about seven teenagers age 16-19 in the U.S. die in motor vehicle accidents.

Getting a driver’s license is an important milestone on the road from childhood to adulthood. I can remember the feeling of freedom that it gave me as a teenager.

However, with such an important privilege comes certain risks and responsibilities.

In 2011, nearly 292,000 teens 16-19 were treated in emergency departments in the U.S. for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents.

That same year, 2,650 teens died from those accidents, which are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.

There are reasons that teens get in more motor vehicle accidents.

Being newer drivers, they are more likely to underestimate (or not even recognize) dangerous driving situations.

They are more likely to speed and follow the vehicle ahead too closely.

Teens have the lowest seat belt use of any age group. They also may be using alcohol or other impairing substances.

Males have nearly twice the risk of dying in a crash than females at this age.

The risk of an accident increases with the number of teen passengers in the vehicle.

Those teens within the first few months of having their licenses are also at more risk.

Certain distractions can increase the risk of having an accident: cell phones, putting on makeup, eating, nighttime driving, drowsiness and substances such as alcohol and drugs.

Driver’s education classes and instruction may help lessen the risk of accidents, and graduated driver’s license programs that increase driving privileges as drivers get more experience have been shown to decrease fatal crashes.

Driving contracts between parents (or guardians) and teen drivers that outline the responsibilities, restrictions and punishments for a teen driver may also help remind him to drive safer.

Parents and guardians should always model safe driving behavior.

Distractions can also be decreased in order to help the teen driver concentrate on the road.

Cell phones should be turned off (or the driver should at least pull off the road before responding).

Makeup application and eating should be done before getting into the car.

Teen passengers should be limited, and driving at night should be restricted until the driver is more experienced.

Teens should not drive after consuming alcohol, drugs, or when they are drowsy, and they should always wear their seatbelts.