Handing Over the Keys
Do you know what the number one cause of teen deaths is? No, it’s not suicide, a medical problem, murder or even underage drinking. The number one cause of teen deaths in the United States is motor vehicle crashes.(1) In 2009, nearly 3,000 teens in the United States aged 15–19 were killed, and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.
As I begin, let me say that there comes a point in every teen’s life where he must learn to drive. I can vividly remember even as young boy my dad teaching me how to drive in vacant parking lots. The day I turned 15 years old, I received my permit to drive and drove home that evening with my dad from Napa, California, which is about 70 miles away. Still to this day, I do not know what my dad was thinking! The objective of my writing this article is not to discourage young people from driving, but rather to educate the parents about the potential problems, and to encourage them to take an active role in helping their teens learn how to drive.
Always make sure your teen driver buckles up.
First of all, it’s the law; secondly, it could save his life if he ever were involved in a collision. According to James Madison University, 17,000 people every year could have been saved if they had simply buckled up. (2) If your teen is like many teens, he will give you every excuse in the book for why he “can’t” wear the seatbelt; however, facts are facts, and the fact is that a person is more likely to survive a collision when wearing a seatbelt than when he is not.
Do not allow your teens to transport other teens.
For teenagers, the risk of being in a crash increases when they transport passengers. (3) The fatality risk of drivers aged 16 to 17 years is 3.6 times higher when they are driving with passengers than when they are driving alone, and the risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers increases. Passengers who are age peers may distract the teen driver and encourage him to take more risks, and this is especially true for young males riding with young male drivers. (4) Parents, in the state of California it is illegal for a for first-year driver to transport passengers under 20 without a parent or guardian in the vehicle. Whether your teen likes it or not, it is the law. I cannot begin to tell you how nervous it makes me to see teenagers transporting teens all over town. Parents, I understand that your children will need to transport passengers at some point in their lives; but please exercise Godly wisdom about when that time is. Please, do not allow your teens to drive with other teens.
Set up guidelines for your teen driver.
- What will be the consequences if your teen driver receives a speeding ticket?
- What will curfew be?
- What will happen if your teen arrives home later than his curfew?
- What will result if your teen transports other teens without permission?
- What are the consequences for using a cell phone when driving?
- Will you allow your teen to drive at night? If you do, how long and how often?
Don’t just expect your teen to know what the rules are. As a parent, set up guidelines; then expect and enforce your teen driver to abide by those guidelines.
Teach your teen driver the importance of safety while driving.
On my 16th birthday, my dad and I went down to the DMV where I passed my behind-the-wheel test. I never remember my dad sitting me down for hours of lectures about safety while driving, but I do remember him teaching and telling me often about how to be safe while driving. My dad’s words of wisdom still echo in my ears today, “Son, a vehicle is not a toy.” Looking back to those early days of driving, I am so thankful I had parents who cared enough about me to teach and train me how to be a responsible driver.
There are many helpful websites available where you can find other tips to help you as you deal with your teenage driver. I am not against teenagers driving. Instead, the purpose of this article is simply to provoke parents to consider potential areas of dangerous inherent to teen driving. How tragic it would be for a teen to be involved in an automobile accident that could have been prevented by forethought and planning on the part of his parents.
Did you know???
- Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are 4 times more likely than older drivers to crash.
- In their first year on the road, teens are almost 10 times more likely to be in a crash.
- Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seatbelt use.
- Teenage drivers account for 12.6% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes.
- Talking on a cell phone can double the likelihood of an accident and can slow a young driver’s reaction time to that of a 70 year old.
- 56% of teens said they make and answer phone calls while driving.
- 55% of teens said they exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph.
- 44% of teens said they drive more safely without friends in the car.
- Almost 60% of teens’ nighttime auto deaths occur before midnight.