Buckle up, power off the phone, hit the road only during daylight hours and understand the consequences of unsafe driving – these are just a few safety tips parents should instill in their teenagers during National Teen Driver Safety Week this Oct. 14-20.
The theme of the sixth annual National Teen Driver Safety Week is “Share, Not Scare,” a theme created to motivate and empower teens by communicating the benefits of safe driving rather than educating primarily through fear. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Research Institute’s Teen Driver Source Web site offers online tools, facts and other information during National Teen Driver Safety Week to help teens learn how to drive, understand their states’ driving laws and restrictions, reduce crash risks and more.
“How can you prevent a crash? By not triggering one. Don’t speed, talk or text on a cell phone, drive around with a bunch of rowdy friends, or drink and drive. You also need to use critical thinking and steady focus to make sure a crash doesn't happen to you,” the campaign’s site states.
A multimedia section on the campaign site features videos including the “Park the Phone. Drive” public service announcement; a teen-on-the-street video answering teen’s questions about driving laws and restrictions; a 9-minute video sharing the story of one family whose daughter suffered brain damage following a prom night car crash; and much more.
According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds. In 2008 alone, 3,118 teens ages 15 to 19 died as a driver or as a passenger of a teen driver, according to research from CHOP Research Institute and State Farm Insurance.
NSC Offers Tips for Teens
The National Safety Council (NSC) offers the following tips for National Teen Driver Safety Week:
Buckle Up. Seat belt are the single most effective tools for preventing injuries and deaths behind the wheel, and they saved more than 75,000 lives between 2004-2008. A 2008 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed 80 percent of teens said they always wear a seat belt because their parents insisted they do so when they were young. Setting a positive example really does make a difference.
Power off the phone. Regardless of age or level of experience, cell phone use while driving is dangerous. Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to crash, and drivers who text are eight times as likely. The statistics are clear – cell phone use behind the wheel can be deadly. Teens already crash at three times the rate of more experienced drivers. There is no reason a driver of any age should be distracted while he or she is operating a vehicle, but it is especially important teens do not compound their high crash risk with unnecessary distractions.
Drive during daylight hours. Many parents do not believe driving at night is safe for teens as long as teens are not out too late. Unfortunately, most fatal teen-related nighttime crashes happen before midnight. When it gets dark, the driving environment changes and becomes more complex. It takes plenty of experience to safely drive at night, and to do so with confidence. Spend plenty of time practicing driving at nighttime with your teen.
Don’t let friends become a driving distraction. Just one teen passenger increases a teen driver’s crash risk by as much as 48 percent; three teen passengers increases risk by as much as 307 percent. It might be easier to allow teens to carpool with friends or to carry their peers or younger siblings, but always sacrifice convenience for safety. Make other travel arrangements and emphasize the dangers teen drivers face when they are distracted by teen passengers.
Review your state’s teen driving laws. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) was developed to keep teens safe as they learn to drive. For example, every state has a nighttime driving restriction and a minimum number of required supervised practice hours. Make sure your teen understands that violating these restrictions is not only irresponsible, but illegal. GDL is grounded in science and proven to work. Teens must realize these restrictions really do help them stay safe while learning to drive.
Set your own restrictions. If you haven’t drafted a few household driving rules, consider sitting down with your teen this week and agreeing on some. GDL does not have to be state law to be enforced at home, and many state laws are not strong enough. Parents can go beyond state GDL by riding with their teens after the required supervised driving phase ends, enforcing a nighttime driving curfew of 10 p.m. or earlier and by banning cell phone use while driving. Take a moment this week to sign a parent-teen agreement, and stick to the terms and conditions outlined within it.
Talk about the consequences of unsafe driving behaviors. Nearly everyone knows someone who has been affected by a crash involving a teen driver. Personal stories can be powerful motivations for change, and they often are relatable. Read or watch personal stories from impacted individuals and families, and discuss the consequences of inexperienced and unsafe driving with your teens.
This National Teen Driver Safety Week and beyond, make sure you share, not scare, the importance of driving safety with your teen.