We worry about our children as babies, observing every move and checking repeatedly as they sleep in the crib.
We worry about our children when they’re toddlers, watching as they explore a new world with waddling, uncertain steps.
We worry when they move to grade school, middle school, high school.
Then, in an instant, they are 16, eligible to get a driver’s permit, then a license. When we watch them pull out of the driveway alone for the first time, our worries quadruple.
Unfortunately, parents’ fears won’t be alleviated by a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, which says teen drivers don’t put only themselves in peril; they’re a danger to everyone else on the road as well.
According to the study, in 2013 alone, 371,645 people were injured and 2,927 were killed in crashes involving a teen driver – a majority of which were not the teen driver him/herself. The study focused on data from police-reported crashes between 1994-2013 involving drivers ages 15-19.
The AAA study found that, in 2013, an average of 220 teen drivers and passengers died in traffic crashes during each of the summer months, a 43 percent increase compared to the rest of the year.
“Teen crash rates are higher than any other age group, and this data confirm that the impact of their crashes extend well beyond the teen who is behind the wheel,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a statement. “Since teens drive more during the summer than any other season, this insight is a timely reminder to everyone – drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists – to be mindful when sharing the roads with young drivers.”
The study is a reminder of the importance of discussing road safety with teen drivers – particularly in this period referred to by safety experts as the 100 Deadliest Days – the stretch of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash.
The following are some talking points to start a conversation with teens about driving:
- Buckling up is NOT optional. Every passenger should be wearing a seatbelt, on every trip. Period.
- Distracted driving is dangerous. There’s plenty of talk about the distraction caused by cellphones, but texting and talking aren’t the only distractions: eating, drinking, applying makeup, combing hair, chatting with passengers, reaching for an item in the backseat – these are just a few of the things that can cause distracted driving. If you need to get a bag from the back seat, to send a text or make a call, pull over and stop to do it.
- Texting – or any use of a cellphone – while driving is dangerous. There’s no downplaying this one, so it’s worth repeating.
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks on a long trip. According to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, “Teen drivers who sleep less than 8 hours nightly are one-third more likely to crash than those who sleep 8 or more hours nightly.” (View more information at TeenDriverSource.org.)
- Teens should review the car’s safety systems and know how to use them.
For more tips on teen driving safety, visit AAA’s Keys2Drive site.
- NBC news story, Teen drivers are risk to everyone.
- See the National Safety Council’s, A Teen’s Biggest Safety Threat is Sitting on the Driveway.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has a page on Teen Drivers.