Getting behind the wheel is an incredible privilege for any teenager, and being a safe driver is one of the most important ways they can demonstrate personal and societal responsibility.
Learning the fundamentals of teen driving safety is critical, as motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among teens in the U.S.
The CDC reports that nearly 2,400 teens aged 13-19 lost their lives in car crashes in 2019, with another 258,000 being treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle crash.
Distractions and dangers are all around drivers when they get in a car, especially when it comes to teen driving accidents. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- Dialing a phone while driving increases teens’ risk of a crash by 6x and texting while driving increases the risk 23x.
- Phone use when behind the wheel causes 1 in every 5 teen distracted driving fatalities.
- 45 percent of teens killed in driving accidents were not wearing seatbelts.
Learning safe driving techniques can empower teen drivers to make safe choices, avoid digital distractions and be confident on the roadways.
Here are eight tips to support the teen driver in your life:
- Get plenty of driving practice.
When they’re first learning to drive, ensure your teen gets plenty of time driving with a parent or licensed adult for about six months. During that time period, aim to get 30-50 hours of practice driving on various roads and in different weather conditions.
- Be conscientious about teen passengers.
At any age, there is nothing more distracting to a driver than a full car, so keeping passengers along for the ride – especially socializing teen peers – will help ensure less distracted driving in those early learning days.
- Make a plan for nighttime driving.
During a teen’s first six months of driving, it’s best to be off the road by 9 or 10 p.m.
- Make wearing a seatbelt a must.
Model wearing seatbelts to your kids of any age and set expectations with teens that seatbelts are necessary on every trip, even if it’s a short distance. Using seatbelts reduced serious injuries and deaths in crashes by almost 50 percent, according to the CDC.
- Minimize the risk of distracted driving
Using our cell phones can be a temptation for any driver, and especially teens. Talk with your teen about a establishing a place to put their phone so they cannot reach it while driving, which helps encourage that boundary until it becomes a healthy habit. And remind them if they need to use their phone, just pull over into a safe place to do so.
- Be aware of drowsy driving.
Drowsy driving causes thousands of crashes each year. Before they hit the road, ask your teen to ensure they’re fully rested and aware before getting behind the wheel, and have a plan for scenarios when they’re not.
- Drive safe and drive smart.
Every drive isn’t “one size fits all” and different drivers, road and weather conditions can impact our choices behind the wheel. Encourage smart decision-making with your teen driver, including driving with these fundamentals: always follow the speed limit; adjust speed to road and weather conditions; and maintain enough space behind the vehicle ahead to avoid a crash.
- Say no to impaired driving.
One drink can impair a teen’s ability and increases the risk of a crash. In addition to making a personal commitment to never drink and drive, empower your teen to refuse to ride in a car with anyone who has been drinking.
To help stay safe on the road, the UPS Road Code program at Boys & Girls Clubs, now in its 12th year, educates teens on safe driving techniques and how to minimize distractions on the road. The program empowers teens to drive change for themselves and their peers through a combination of classroom sessions and the use of a driving simulator. Online resources are also available for parents and teen drivers to prepare for the realities of the road.
As part of the UPS Road Code program, new teen ambassadors are named to lead the future of safe driving. The ambassadorship is a year-long commitment beginning each October, and recently Boys & Girls Clubs of America welcomed 62 new ambassadors – including two national ambassadors – who will become safe-driving advocates for their peers, families and communities.
The 2020-21 national ambassadors are Hugo M., Morristown Boys & Girls Club and Daniela P., West Valley Boys & Girls Club, who established platforms through teaching classes, creating PSAs, developing bilingual messages, and talking about the importance of safe driving across their social media channels.