Getting your driver’s license is one of the most exciting life experiences for a teenager. While it’s great to have a new sense of freedom, it’s important to remember that driving is a privilege and a huge responsibility.
National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 17-23 and is the perfect opportunity for parents to remind their teens about the dangers and rules of the road.
Greatest Dangers for Teen Drivers
According to the United States Department of Transportation, the greatest dangers for teen drivers include distracted driving, inconsistent or no seat belt use, speeding, too many passengers, and alcohol. Below are some tips to help avoid them.
- Distracted Driving – Only answer a phone call or text message if it is an emergency. Even then, you should pull over to a safe area and to use your cell phone. To help avoid cell phone use, put it in a spot where it is out of sight while driving. If it is being used for navigation on a long car ride, have a passenger be your co-pilot and help with directions. Cell phones are not the only ways in which distracted driving occurs. Be sure to not eat, put on make-up, turn around to talk to passengers, or anything else that shifts your focus away from the road.
- Seat Belts – Every time your teenager asks to use the family car, remind them to buckle up as you hand over the keys. Talk with them about the possible risks of not wearing a seat belt including serious injuries, paralysis, and death. Make sure your child knows of the consequences and hold them accountable when they decide to not wear a seat belt. This could mean taking their driving privileges away temporarily. Finally, you are the biggest influence that your teen has. Set the example and consistently wear your seat belt every time you get in a vehicle.
- Speeding – Pennsylvania has strict speeding laws for those with Junior Licenses. If a teen driver is convicted of a single high-speed violation (exceeding 26 miles per hour) or gets 6 or more points, the license will be revoked for 90 days. More importantly, your teenager would be putting themselves at a high level of danger by not following the speed limit. Unexpected hazards can occur at any time and going too fast gives the driver less time to react.
- Too Many Passengers – In addition to cell phones, having too many passengers in your teen’s vehicle can be a huge distraction while driving. Junior Licenses only allow one non-family member with them in the car to help avoid this. Friends could pressure your driver to try maneuvers that they are uncomfortable with or drive more aggressively in general. Remind your teen that they are the one in control of their vehicle and will be the ultimate person responsible if anything bad were to happen.
- Alcohol – Unfortunately, even precautions such as minimum legal drinking age and zero tolerance laws in place, teen drinking and driving still occurs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen drivers are at much greater risk of crashing after drinking alcohol than adult drivers. No matter what, make sure your teen has a safe way to get home if their driver has been drinking.
Dialogue between parents and their teenagers about the ways they should stay safe behind the wheel needs to remain open all year round, not just during National Teen Driver Safety Week. A final practice to sum up all the ways in which teens can drive safely is to write a pledge and have your teen commit to it with their signature. This instills the high level of responsibility that comes with driving and reminds them of the possible consequences of driving dangers.
Annalisa Negrea is an injury prevention coordinator with Trauma Services at UPMC in North Central Pa. For more information on Trauma Services at UPMC, visit UPMC.com.