In 2016, about six teens died every day in motor vehicle related crashes. While teens between the ages of 15 and 19 make up only about 6.5 percent of the population, they account for around 8.4 percent of total costs related to injuries acquired in motor vehicle accidents. Teen drivers have higher levels of risks on the road than their adult counterparts—and during the summer, their risks increase.
Teen Drivers: The Risks of Summer
Teen drivers have increased risks behind the wheel for a number of reasons. They lack experience behind the wheel, which means that obstacles adults could handle with ease create bigger problems for teen drivers. Teen drivers show higher rates of distraction behind the wheel and have a greater likelihood of taking chances that adult drivers wouldn’t take. During the summer, in particular, several factors contribute to increased risk for teen drivers.
- Teen drivers spend more time behind the wheel for recreational driving. Instead of merely driving to work and school, in the summer teen drivers go for a longer drives with their friends and drive just for the fun of it. Often, teen drivers want to enjoy the novelty of having the freedom to go where they want to go, when they want to go there.
- During the summer, teens drive to less-familiar locations. During the school year, teens often restrict their driving to familiar places and roads: school, work, and a select few locations they visit on a regular basis. During the summer, on the other hand, they have more places they want to go and more things they want to do. As a result, teen drivers find themselves on unfamiliar roads, which can significantly increase accident risk.
- Teens have plenty to talk about and plenty of distractions on their minds. Distraction contributes to around 58 percent of teen accidents, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. During the summer, teens have less contact with their friends at school, so they spend more time texting or talking on the phone to compensate. While 94 percent of teens acknowledge that texting while driving increases risk and danger, many of them do it anyway. During the summer, this risk increases as they spend more time making plans with friends. Even a quick, “Hey, are you on your way?” text can distract a teen driver at a critical moment behind the wheel.
- Teens have more passengers. What fun is going out during the summer if you can’t take your friends with you? During the summer, teens take their friends along on drivers. Just one teen passenger, however, increases the fatal crash risk by 44 percent. Three teen passengers may raise the rate by as much as 300 percent.
- Increased road construction can add to the risk. During the summer months, many cities take on much-needed road construction projects. While these projects help improve driving conditions long-term, they can cause many short-term hazards, including narrower roadways and detours. Teen drivers struggle more than adults to navigate these obstacles, increasing their risk of accidents.
- Teens have fewer limitations in summer. Half of all teen drivers, for example, drive in the dark more often during the summer than they do during other times, raising the odds that they will crash. During summer, many parents do not stick to strict curfews, and allow their teens to go out later or to participate in more activities.
- Fun events can also increase teen recklessness. Emotion runs high during events popular with teens during the summer months. Teens celebrate graduation, get excited about parties, or drive more recklessly leading up to vacation, especially if they drive themselves to that location. About 66 percent of teen drivers and passengers involved in fatal crashes chose not to wear their seat belts, a simple decision that can substantially increase injury risks.
June, July, and August are the most dangerous months for teens on the road, with more than 991 fatal accidents during those months in 2015. Unfortunately, the risk remains high for teen drivers, who need additional support and supervision to keep them safer on the road during those important months.
Keeping Your Teen Driver Safer During the Summer
As the parent of a teen driver, you do not want your teen to become a statistic—and you do want him to stay safer on the road. While you can’t always prevent accidents, you can take several steps to keep your teen safer on the road in the summer months.
Pay attention to teen driver restrictions. In Florida, 16-year-old drivers cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless they have a licensed driver age 21 or older in the car with them. Seventeen-year-old drivers may not drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The law makes exceptions for young drivers traveling to-or-from summer jobs, however.
Institute your own rules. Florida law, for example, does not currently limit the number of passengers teen drivers can have in their vehicles, though other states allow a young driver only a single passenger unless she transports her siblings to and from school. As a Florida parent, you may want to institute your own rules for your teen, including:
- How many passengers your teen can have in the vehicle. Remember, each teen passenger raises the risk that your teen driver will have a fatal car accident. Each passenger increases distraction and can add an element of recklessness.
- Where your teen’s cell phone should reside when he drives. Keeping the phone in the back seat or the trunk can reduce the odds that your teen will suffer distraction at a critical moment.
- Where your teen can drive. Some teens, for example, may benefit from geographic restriction in their driving privileges until they have more experience on the road.
- When your teen can drive. You may find that your teen driver loses focus after 10 p.m., or that she struggles to drive in the dark. Restricting your teen to more reasonable driving hours can help keep her safer on the road during the dangerous summer driving months.
Know your teen’s plans. Once teens have their license and their own car, many parents fall into the habit of letting them police themselves. As a parent, however, keeping an eye on your teens and their plans each day of the summer will help keep them safe. Know when they plan to arrive at home and where they plan to go. Ask what other guests plan to attend various events and who your teens will transport. Talk with other parents to determine their comfort level with your teen transporting theirs: often, other parents’ reactions will tell you if their teen poses a higher level of distraction for yours.
Offer your teen transportation when needed. Your teen has a license and a car. He can transport himself many places, but that does not necessarily mean he should. Pay attention to your teen’s needs, and offer transportation as needed. This may include:
- Taking your teen to late-night events yourself, especially if your teen struggles to drive in the dark.
- Offering to carpool with other parents, even if you find it inconvenient.
- Picking up your teen when he decides to leave an event at an odd time, especially if the event ends outside hours he should be on the road
Talk to your teen about impaired driving. Over the summer, teens often attend events where their peers choose to indulge in alcohol or recreational drug use. You probably can’t stop that from happening, but you can let your teens know that they should never drive after drinking or taking drugs. Give them a free pass if they choose to call you instead of getting behind the wheel. Always pick your teens up as soon as possible if they let you know they need a ride. Often, this will help prevent teens from getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Check in with your teens. Create a system that will allow you to determine whether they actually went where they said they were going. You may, for example, ask for pictures, or you might check in to ensure that they really reached their destination. You do not have to do this every time your teen goes out, but regular check-ins will allow you to keep track of where your teen goes and with whom she goes there. If you worry that she might take pictures at other times, try adding a unique element: ask your teens and their friends to hold up a spoon, to hold their hands in a specific position, or to take along a particular prop. If they tell you a specific person will be present at the event, ask for the picture to include that individual.
Install safety apps on your teen’s phone. Many apps designed just for teenage drivers will help keep your teen driver safer. Try some of these options:
- DriveScribe alerts drivers when they commit an action that breaks the law of the road in a specific area.
- Safe Driver monitors location and driving speeds, letting parents know if their teen drivers choose to speed.
- DriveSafe.ly reads text messages aloud, which prevents teen drivers from needing to check their phones and keeps their eyes on the road.
- Texecution locks the phone while the vehicle moves above a certain speed, preventing teen drivers from using their phones while they need to keep their attention on the road.
Keep driving with your teen. Your teen has a license. He passed the test. That does not mean, however, that your teen is entirely ready for every challenge he may face on the road. During the summer months, ride with your teen driver occasionally. Get a good feel for how he handles specific challenges. Take advantage of longer summer days with more spare time to drive in a parking lot, drive together in bad weather, or experiment with specific challenges your teen may face. The more you drive with your teen, the more advice you can offer him and the safer he will become behind the wheel. Take your teen out to drive at night. Go on a trip together and allow your teen to take over some of the driving. He may face all of these challenges on the road later, and you would rather that first experience occurred with you at hand.
Choose the right vehicle. You want your teen’s first car to provide as safe a driving experience as possible. Ideally, you want that vehicle to keep him safe even if he crashes. Look for key safety features in addition to an inexpensive vehicle. A starter car low to the ground can also reduce accident risk, since low cars have lower rollover rates than, for example, SUVs. Keep in mind that your teen driver does not need a sports car or another vehicle with too much power under the hood, which can increase the odds of risky behavior.
Invest in GPS. Yes, your teen’s phone has GPS capabilities. If you have already paid for your teen’s car and insurance, you may try to avoid additional expenses. Investing in a GPS, however, will prevent your teen from needing to use a phone to navigate. Some GPS devices may require your teen to pull over to program them, which can cut down on crash risk.
Teach safer driving behaviors. As your teen driver explores further, keep talking about safe driving habits. Remind her to stay within the speed limit. Since Florida sun can cause brutal glare, buy your teen a good pair of sunglasses, and remind her to use them whenever she is behind the wheel. Simple sunglasses can reduce vision problems and make it easier to avoid accidents. Also, encourage your teen to avoid using cruise control, even on long trips. Cruise control can lead to higher levels of distracted driving as your teen falls into a state of complacency.
Did You or Your Teen Driver Suffer Injuries in an Accident?
If you have a teen driver who suffered serious injuries in an accident, or if a teen driver injured you or someone you love, get legal help. Your family may have the right to significant compensation. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, or call us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) to set up your free consultation.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765