This week, communities around the U.S. will celebrate National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW) to raise awareness of teen driver safety. Unfortunately, despite good faith efforts, statistics on teen driving remain troubling: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicle accidents are the number one cause of teenage deaths in the United States. When evaluated against all other drivers, teenagers are involved in triple the number of fatal accidents. Distracted driving – such as talking on a cell phone or texting – remains a serious danger, as the number of both fatal and non-fatal car accidents continues to increase.
A week like this is an excellent reminder that the work raising awareness about distracted driving is just beginning. It’s a time to look at how to positively impact those numbers in our own communities – whether as a parent practicing on the road with their teen, or a student committing to not texting while driving. This year’s NTDSW theme is “It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving,” and that message is spot-on. While it is certainly important for teens to follow the rules of the road and take every step to ensure their own safety and that of passengers and fellow drivers, it is equally, if not more important, for a parent to instill a sense of responsibility about safe driving in their teen and to model safe driving behaviors each day, leading by example.
In honor of NTDSW, we’ve put together a top 10 list of ways to stay safe on the road, intended to be reviewed by you and your teen together.
1. Watch where you’re going: A split second is all it takes to cause an accident, so keep your eyes focused on the road at all times.
2. Turn the phone off: Statistics show that you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident if you text behind the wheel. Whatever the message, it can wait.
3. Buckle up: Wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk of injury by 50 percent.
4. Watch out for other drivers: Even if you’re not at fault, accidents can still happen. Paying attention to other vehicles helps to prevent potentially serious car crashes.
5. Don’t drive under the influence: It’s the law, plain and simple. Drinking alcohol or being under the influence of drugs when driving impairs your judgment and reaction time, and can lead to serious crashes and legal repercussions.
6. Pay attention to the weather: Especially during inclement weather, it’s extremely important to keep your focus and mind your surroundings, as rain, snow, and ice can severely change how a car handles. Remember to turn your lights on in inclement weather!
7. Obey all traffic laws: Don’t rush through a red light and always obey the speed limit (just because the car in front of you is speeding in a residential area doesn’t mean you should follow). Not only will you get pulled over, but the NHTSA estimates that over 30 percent of fatal car crashes involve speed.
8. Ignore distractions: Stop playing with the radio dial, turning to talk to others in the car, and don’t even think about scrolling through your iPod. Distractions like these pull your attention away from what is most important: driving safely.
9. Stay awake: If you feel yourself nodding off, don’t get behind the wheel of a car. If you’re already driving and start to feel tired, pull over, grab some caffeine and only begin driving again when you feel 100 percent awake.
10. Practice makes perfect: Drive only on roads where you feel comfortable. The interstate shouldn’t be the first time behind the wheel; start off on smaller, less congested roads with lower speed limits, and gradually work your way up to main streets and highways.
We encourage parents and teens to sign our Safety Pledge, which sets forth a specific set of driving rules for parents and teens to follow together. You can also download the free Parent’s Supervised Driving Program, a guide to safe driving for parents and teens, of which we are proud sponsors. With these tools, parents and teens can start a conversation about safe driving and share expectations – it takes two.
- George Murphy, Safety Insurance