How Parents Can Help Prevent Vehicle Crashes, The Leading Cause of Death For Teenagers
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens aged 15 to 18 in the United States, with more than 2,600 dying per year. Of those, nearly 1,000 fatalities involve teen drivers.
For National Teen Driver Safety Awareness, Law Office of Chain | Cohn | Clark would like to remind teens and parents to have conversations about important rules they need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel. These rules address the greatest dangers for teen drivers: alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and number of passengers.
“Behind every responsible teen driver is a vigilant parent or guardian, shaping the journey of our youth on the road,” said Matt Clark, attorney and managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Clark. “Studies show that teenagers whose parents establish firm driving rules typically engage in fewer risky behaviors and are involved in fewer accidents. That means the keys to safety and wisdom are held in our hands. The road to a brighter, safer tomorrow begins with the guidance of today.”
In addition, an estimated nearly 100,000 teenage drivers suffer injuries in traffic crashes in 2021, and about 170,000 individuals were injured in accidents involving teenage drivers, constituting nearly 7% of all roadway injuries for that year.
Here are some discussions parents and teenagers can have together:
- Impaired Driving: While teenagers are prohibited by law from buying, owning, or consuming alcohol, a national statistic from 2021 indicates that 19% of teenage drivers involved in fatal accidents had alcohol in their system. Nevertheless, alcohol is not the sole factor impacting the safety of teenage drivers; marijuana also hampers a driver’s ability to respond to their environment. It is crucial to reinforce to teenagers that driving under the influence of any impairing substance, be it illicit drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs, can have fatal consequences. Teenagers must recognize that adhering to responsible driving behaviors is vital to maintain the privilege of driving.
- Seat Belt Safety: Encouraging teenagers to prioritize their safety inside a vehicle is as simple as ensuring they wear seat belts. Regrettably, a significant majority, 51%, of teenage drivers who lost their lives in accidents in 2021 failed to wear seat belts. It’s important to emphasize that teenagers and their passengers face a significantly higher risk of fatal injuries in accidents when not properly secured. Promote a culture of responsible driving by urging teenagers to make it a habit to ensure that everyone is securely fastened before the vehicle starts moving.
- Distracted Driving: Utilizing a cell phone while behind the wheel poses significant dangers, with potentially fatal consequences. In fact, texting while driving is forbidden in California. It is imperative to reiterate to teenagers the perils of using their phones while driving and to establish a clear stance that any form of phone engagement, whether it’s texting, talking, or using social media apps, is absolutely unacceptable. Furthermore, stress the importance that even when stopped at a traffic light, participating in social media activities while driving remains both unlawful and dangerous. Distracted driving goes beyond cell phone use; it encompasses a range of distractions, such as passengers, adjusting vehicle controls, and eating or drinking while driving. According to the most recent available data, in 2021, 7% of teenage drivers operating passenger vehicles in fatal accidents were reported as distracted at the time of the collision. It is vital to convey to teenagers that wearing headphones while driving is inappropriate, as all drivers must maintain the ability to hear signals such as the horn of another vehicle or the siren of an emergency vehicle to ensure safe reactions on the road.
- Speed Limits: Speeding is a considerable worry for drivers of all ages, but it carries even graver consequences for teenagers with limited experience. Shockingly, in 2021, almost one-third (32%) of all teenage drivers operating passenger vehicles in fatal accidents were found to be exceeding the speed limit at the time of the collision. Furthermore, statistics reveal that males were more frequently involved in fatal accidents related to speeding than females. It is essential to motivate teenagers to consistently observe and abide by posted speed limits.
- Passengers: Having passengers in a teenager’s vehicle can lead to extremely dire consequences. Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash escalates significantly with the number of passengers in the car. Moreover, the likelihood of teenage drivers partaking in risky behaviors triples when multiple passengers are present.
Teaching your teen to drive safely is a critical task that requires patience, commitment, and consistency. Here are some tips:
- Be a good role model. Obey traffic laws and speed limits, and avoid distractions while driving.
- Understand your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program.
- Tour the vehicle with your teen and teach them the basics, such as how to adjust the seat and mirrors.
- Prepare for emergencies by teaching your teen how to change a flat tire, jump a dead battery, and use a roadside emergency kit.
- Set up emergency contacts.
- Spend plenty of time practicing with your teen before they get their license.
- Start in a parking lot and gradually progress to busier roads.
- Practice essential skills like parallel parking, merging onto highways, and handling different weather conditions.
- Consider enrolling your teen in a driver’s education course.
- Address critical road safety concerns, such as distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, seat belts, and drowsy driving.
- Set clear boundaries and enforce them consistently.
- Keep your cool and avoid getting upset while teaching your teen to drive.
- Once your teen has their license, continue riding with them periodically to offer feedback and ensure they maintain safe habits.
- Limit the number of passengers who can ride with your teen, especially during the first few months of driving.
- Be patient and supportive as your teen gains confidence and experience.
- Remember, teaching your teen road safety and responsible driving is an investment in their safety – now and into the future.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.