Several previous Did You Know articles have dealt with teen driving and the high risks of crashes resulting in death and injury, reasons why the dangers are so high, and some possible solutions. This article will offer another idea, parent-teen safety agreements.
Statistics show traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, that mile for mile, teen drivers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, and that there are approximately 5,500 teenage vehicle occupant deaths annually in the U.S. We are told that approximately 25 percent of teen drivers killed in crashes were intoxicated, and that approximately 20 percent of all 16-year old drivers are involved in crashes during their first year of driving.
Following are some of the reasons the above statistics hold true.
-Lack of experience - For teens, reaction times are quick, but teen drivers often don't recognize situations that require a reaction. Crash rates are highest for drivers with the least experience.
-The propensity to take risks - Teens will be teens, and they tend to take chances. They are also susceptible to peer pressure and to overestimating their capabilities.
-Driving with other teens - there is a direct correlation between the number of young passengers in a vehicle and the chance of being in a crash.
-Distractions - Fiddling with interior controls, eating, drinking, talking on a cell phone, even listening to the radio are a few of the distractions that take a driver's attention away form the road.
-Nighttime driving - Traffic crashes increase during night driving for teens.
-Use of seatbelts - Studies reveal more than half the teen drivers and passengers that were killed in crashes were not wearing seatbelts.
We have been reminded of the statistics, but we as parents and our teen drivers collectively don't think death and injury can or will happen to us or to our teens.
But it does! Sometimes there is nothing we can do or could have done to prevent a tragedy, but here is something that we can do that could make a difference agree to a binding contract between parent and teen.
Discuss the provisions of the contract with everyone involved, parents and teenager, before a license is obtained. The contract must be followed by the driver and enforced by the parent. Look on the internet for sample agreements.
From Subaru's "Drive" magazine, here are some considerations:
-Set rules that everyone must follow, such as everyone always wearing seatbelts, obeying safety laws, etc.
-Commitments concerning vehicle costs and condition
-Limitations at the different stages in the learning process that include the provisions of state Graduated Driver Licensing laws
-Tie in school grades with accessibility to a vehicle
-Specific consequences for any violations of the agreement
-Keep the agreement accessible to all parties involved
Help your teen driver to drive safely by setting a good example yourself. More teen driving articles can be found on the Traffic Safety Board's Web at www.franklincony.org.
Dave Werner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.