Car crashes are in fact the leading cause of death among teenagers (ages 15-20). Measured mile to mile, teenage drivers and passengers are involved in three times as many fatal car accidents as other drivers.
Here at Gilreath Law, we here too many tragic stories about how someone’s son or daughter was needlessly killed on Tennessee highways. Nothing is more heart-wrenching for a parent than having to bury their child. Over 5000 teens lose their lives each year on the roadways.
Why are teens so at risk on the roads?
Numerous studies examining factors related to teen driver fatalities have been done. Immaturity and inexperience combine with speed, alcohol use and other factors. Teens are also less likely to wear their seatbelts and more likely to be distracted behind the wheel.
To bring awareness to the dangers facing teens on the roadways, the U.S. Congress established National Teen Driver Safety Week in 2007. This year, the nationwide educational drive took place the week of October 15th. The week includes programs to help parents, guardians and teachers educate teens on safe, defensive driving.
National Teen Driver Safety Week includes messages and endorsements from numerous celebrities, including talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and singer/songwriter Jesse McCartney to name a few.
As part of the effort to raise awareness among teens and driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends the following to parents of teen drivers.
1. Be sure your teen learns and follows Tennessee’s graduated driver licensing laws (GDL)
Studies have shown these laws, which restrict the hours teens (15-18) can drive, reduce the number of teen fatalities. These restrictions are put in place so young drivers can gain critical driving experience during low-risk times.
2. Develop a parent-teen driving contract
This contract, which can involve a frank discussion and handshake, lays ground rules and expectations for your teen driver. It serves to reinforce an understanding that driving is a privilege that can be taken away if the rules are not followed.
3. Don’t allow your teen to use electronic devices while driving
While driving and texting or talking on the phone is risky for anyone, it’s doubly risky for teen drivers. In 2010 for example, texting and talking on the phone accounted for 13% of all teen/distraction related crashes. Parents should also set a good example for their kids by not using their phones while driving.
4. Encourage your teens to buckle up
In the event of a crash, wearing a seatbelt often means the difference between life and death. In 2010, 60% of teen drivers and passengers killed in an accident were not wearing a seatbelt. Like cell phones, set a good example from the start by wearing your seatbelt.
5. Talk to your teens about drug and alcohol use
While the legal drinking age is 21, many teens still get access to alcohol, which can dramatically impair judgment and lead to devastating accidents.
One thing is clear – safe driving for teens is a year round concern. In other words, don’t wait until the next National Teen Driver Safety Week to discuss safe driving with your teens. However, events like this can serve as a great opportunity to educate your child on the proper rules of the road.
While getting that driver’s license is an exciting time in young person’s life, it also carries an awesome responsibility to observe the rules of the road and be aware of their surroundings.