<< Back

Adult Involvement Can Lower Teen Driver Deaths

Driving Can Be Dangerous

Teen drivers are inexperienced behind the wheel, and they often make dangerous choices because they lack maturity and are prone to taking risks. It's no surprise, then, that traffic crashes are the leading killer of teens in the U.S. National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 19 – 25, 2014) is a perfect time to discuss solutions to this problem.

Parents and Other Adults Can Help

Parents (or other adults) can have a significant impact on the safety habits of young drivers. That's the message behind the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) "5 to Drive" campaign intended to raise awareness about the critical role adults play in developing safe teen drivers.

The safety initiative encourages parents to:

  • Learn about their state's graduated driver licensing (GDL) program, if there is one, and to understand—and enforce—the restrictions placed on their teen's license. Even in states that don't have an official program, parents can establish important ground rules for their teen driver: Restrict night driving and passengers, prohibit driving while on the phone, and require seat belt use at all times.
  • Be a good role model. Parents must remember that their child sees how they drive and is likely to model their behavior. Therefore, it is imperative that parents practice safe-driving techniques themselves! Parents should also observe and discuss with their children these critical "5 to Drive" safety rules:
    1. No mobile phone use or texting while driving. Ten percent of those killed in teen-driving crashes in 2012 died when the teen driver was distracted at the time of the crash.
    2. No extra passengers. NHTSA data show that a teenage driver is 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behavior when driving with one teenage passenger, and three times more likely with multiple teenager passengers.
    3. No speeding. In 2012, speeding was a factor in almost half (48%) of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers.
    4. No alcohol. The minimum legal drinking age in every state is 21. However, 28% of 15- to 20-year-old drivers killed in crashes in 2012 had been drinking.
    5. No driving or riding without a seat belt. In 2012, more than half (60%) of all 15- to 20-year-old occupants of passenger vehicles killed in crashes were unrestrained.

Driver Education is Important, But Just the Beginning

You shouldn't rely solely on a driver education class to teach your teen to drive. While formal, professional driver education is important—and highly recommended—it should be used as just part of a broader GDL program. Communicate with your teen and set aside time to take your budding motorist on practice driving sessions. It can be a great way to spend time together and to allow the teen to improve on basic driving skills.

If you're worried about what bad habits you might transmit to your teen driver, you could take an inexpensive and entertaining comedy defensive driving course to brush up on your safe-driving skills. And if you're afraid you're not a good teacher, or you're anxious about getting in the vehicle to practice driving with your teen, pick up a copy of the outstanding parent-teen driving guide, Teach Your Teen to Drive…and stay alive. This fantastic parent-teen guide provides life-saving tips and easy-to-follow, structured exercises to reduce the stress factors associated with the up to 60 hours of supervised driving practice that's required by all 50 states.