How To Talk To Teens About Safe Driving

Teen driving safety is always important, but the concept takes on added significance in late October.

That’s not only the time of National Teen Driver Safety Week, it’s also when Halloween brings extra pedestrians to neighborhood sidewalks.

Impairment, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and/or drowsy driving, speeding, and the number of passengers all pose significant risks to young drivers.

Safety experts suggest now is as good a time as any to talk to your teen about safe driving, as a variety of public campaigns will also take place at this time.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there’s a reason parents are so strict when it comes to teens getting behind the wheel: Surveys show that teens whose parents set firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors, and are involved in fewer crashes.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 15 to 18 in the United States -- ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence.

Below, the NHTSA offers some suggestions of what to talk to your teens about regarding safe driving habits.

No Drinking and Driving. Teenagers aren’t legally allowed to drink alcohol, yet it still happens. Remind your teen that they receive a DUI automatically if any alcohol is in their system when they’re pulled over, and that fines and court costs are incredibly expensive. Alcohol and drugs - illegal, prescription or over-the-counter - impair driving and have deadly consequences.

Everyone Wears a Seat Belt. Seat belts are designed to keep you safe in a crash, no matter where you’re sitting or how long or short the journey. More than were 550 passengers were killed in vehicles driven by teen drivers, and 54 percent of those passengers who died were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash in 2016. In 85 percent of cases, when the teen driver was unbuckled, the passengers were also unbuckled.

Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel. All the Time. Those few seconds a teen takes their eyes off the road to look at their smartphone could be their last. Ten percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash in 2016. Cell phones aren’t the only distraction -- other passengers, audio and climate controls, or eating or drinking while driving are all forms of distracted driving.

Follow the Speed Limit. Speed limits aren’t suggestions. Nearly a third of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash in 2016. Remember, it takes longer to stop at higher speeds and there’s a smaller margin of error.

Passengers. Teen drivers and passengers aren't a great mix. Teen drivers were more than twice as likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger, when compared to driving alone. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behaviors triples when driving with multiple passengers.

Don’t Drive Tired. Teens with busy schedules might skimp on sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving. Research has shown that drowsy driving can be as deadly as impaired driving. Emphasize the importance of a good night’s sleep.

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