Many teenagers are excited to get back to school for a milestone they've been waiting for: driving. No parent is excited about getting their kids behind a wheel, and your fears are not unfounded. Recent research in the United States shows just how dangerous it can be for a teen driver, and the numbers aren’t pretty.
In the United States, six teens are killed in a car crash each day, according to research by Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children. And, it’s not just the drivers who are dying--one out of three teens killed were passengers. These tragedies are often the result of inexperienced teen drivers taking risks like not buckling up, texting, speeding and driving under the influence or, without sufficient practice, driving in the dark or with teen passengers.
So if your teen just started driving or is learning how to, it begs the question: What can I do to keep my teen safe on the road?
Safe Kids found that when the following conditions are met, teens are less likely to engage in risky behavior while driving.
1. Teens saw their parents practice safe driving. The research showed parents who demonstrated good behavior made a huge impact on the safe driving habits of their teen drivers. For example, teens who saw a parent driving after drinking were three times more likely to report doing the same than teens whose parents modeled safe behavior. Past research revealed that teens were more likely to buckle up on every ride if their parents made buckling up a consistent habit from a young age.
2. They spent a good deal of time spent practicing driving with their parent. For parents who have teens who are just about to learn how to drive, consider the time you spend on the passenger seat. Those surveyed 75 percent of teens indicated that the time they spent practicing with their parents was the most helpful when learning to drive. Safe Kids recommends that teens get least 50 hours of supervised experience of driving under a variety of conditions (night, rain, highway, etc.)
3. Parents sat their teens down to discuss rules for driving and come to a formal agreement. Teens who have an established family rule against drinking and driving were 10 times less likely to report doing so than those who didn’t have an established rule. Teens with explicit family rules were more likely to wear their seat belt every time and were less likely to drive distracted or speed.
Only 10 percent of the teens who had rules about wearing seatbelts would sometimes skip wearing it, and the 90 percent always made sure they were buckled up. On the other hand, for those that didn’t have seatbelt rules, 53 percent would skip wearing it and only 47 percent made sure that they were. Safe Kids reports that nearly half of teens killed in car crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt.
The gap between teens with agreements with their parents and those without held true for rules against drinking and driving, and texting while driving. For both rules, more than 90 percent of the teens who had discussed these rules with their parents abided by them.
To enforce the rules, draw up a formal agreement, yes, like a written contract. The research shows teens take it seriously. Kids Safe has a ready-made agreement form here that you and your teen can go through and sign together.
On a last note, Safe Kids found that when two or more teens ride in a car with a teen driver behind the wheel, the risks of a fatal car crash doubles. Plus, the risk of a fatal car crash at night is three times more likely for a teen than an adult, and a third of teens killed in crashes were speeding.
Out of all of this information, the organization listed down 7 key rules to driving safely. Discuss these with your teen.