Summer is on its way, and your teenager is likely looking forward to nice weather and spending time with friends. If your teen is a new driver, he or she is undoubtedly looking forward to new adventures behind the wheel, as well. While we all anticipate this rite of passage for our teens, many of us can’t help but worry, and with reason; teen driving is dangerous. According to Teen Driver Source, the risk of getting into a car accident is higher for 16 to 19-year-old drivers than it is for any other age group, and car accidents are the leading cause of death and disability in teens. Below we discuss some steps that you should take to help protect your teen driver this summer.
Wait to Buy Your Teen a Car
As reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a recent study found that newly licensed teens are more likely to speed in their own car than they are in the family car. Speeding is one of the main causes of car accidents, mostly due to the loss of vehicle control and increased distance required to come to a stop associated with speeding. If possible, you should allow your teen to use your car and wait until they’re more experience behind the wheel before you buy him or her a car. This precaution may protect your teen driver during the summer months, as well as protect other drivers on the roadway.
For a number of reasons, however, sharing the family car with teen drivers isn’t always practical. If they need to have their own car, here are some tips on selecting a safe option, provided by Edmunds:
- Check the crash test rating for the vehicle that you’re considering. The top safety picks are cars that fared best in front, side, rollover, and rear crash tests.
- Avoid large vehicles—such as pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs—as they can be hard for inexperienced drivers to maneuver. Additionally, these types of vehicles have a higher center of gravity, which increases the risk of a rollover. Smaller SUVs are often a good choice, provided that they are a new enough model to have electronic stability control.
- While overly large vehicles should be avoided, so should overly small ones, as they offer less protection and don’t generally fare well in crash tests.
- Mid-sized sedans tend to be the best choice for teens, as they are big enough to protect the occupant in a crash, yet not so big that they’re hard to handle.
- For your teen’s first car, avoid one with a V6 engine, as it tempts drivers with more horsepower than they usually need. Something with a four-cylinder engine will limit the acceleration abilities, making it less likely that your teen will speed.
- While it is tempting to purchase a cheap, older model car for your teen, experts discourage this practice. Newer-model vehicles include numerous crash-avoidance and safety features, such as collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, and blind zone detection.
- Some of the newest cars offer safety technology, including the ability for parents to block incoming text messages while a vehicle is in motion.
- If a newer-model car isn’t financially feasible, consider used luxury-model cars. Luxury cars often score well in crash tests and usually include the most important safety features. Ultimately, vehicle size, crash test ratings, and safety features are more important than the age of a car.
- Teens should be reminded not to drive like they own the road, but like they own the car.
Safety First, Before They Even Leave the Driveway
Whether your teen is about to take off for a day of fun in the sun in the family vehicle or the mid-size sedan that you purchased for him or her, you should make sure that someone properly inspects the car before setting out on any trip, according to TeenDriving.com. These checks should be regular and routine for your teen.
- Make sure to check the gas gauge. Running out of gas on the freeway, or even in a residential area, can lead to all kinds of dangerous situations, from the risk of being hit by another vehicle on the side of the road to being stranded and forced to ask for help from strangers. Make it a policy to check the gas gauge before leaving home and to not go under a quarter of a tank before filling up again.
- The vehicle’s tire pressure should be checked regularly, and teens should know how to do this on their own, along with checking the oil and ensuring that the car has wiper fluid.
- Windshields should be clean before the car leaves the driveway to avoid momentary blindness caused by the sun reflecting off a dirty windshield.
- The headrest should be set to rest behind your teen’s head, not neck. This will help to protect teens from whiplash should they be involved in an accident.
- Teens should never drive without buckling up first and should insist that their passengers buckle up, as well. There should never be more passengers in a car than seat belts.
- Your teen should know where to place his or her hands on the steering wheel. Experts no longer recommend placing your hands at 10 and 2 o’clock, but now recommend either 3 and 9 o’clock or 4 and 8 o’clock. The main reason for this change is that, in the event of a car accident, an airbag deployment can cause a driver’s hands to strike his or her face at a high rate of speed if placed too high on the wheel.
Know (and Discuss) the Three Main Causes of Teen Accidents
Teen Driver Source reports that 75 percent of all serious teen crashes are the result of critical errors. The three main errors account for about half of all of those crashes and are as follows:
- Lack of scanning. 21 percent of serious crashes caused by a critical teen driver error involve lack of scanning. According to research, newly licensed teens struggle with the ability to anticipate when and where potential traffic and driving hazards will arise. Therefore, they fail to moderate speed or position their vehicle in a way to avoid these hazards. Some of these potential hazards include cars in adjacent lanes that may suddenly pull in front of teen drivers, pedestrians that are partially hidden from view until they appear suddenly in the crosswalk, another vehicle running a red light, or even a pothole. What is often mistaken as a teen’s lack of attention is often actually just that teens need extra time to master complex skills, such as scanning. Currently, researchers are developing programs to help teens master these skills before licensure, and parents are encouraged to ride along with their newly licensed teens to ensure that they’re remembering and practicing these skills. Remind your teen to never assume that they know what another driver is going to do, and to never pull out in front of someone or swerve into another lane of traffic.
- Going too fast for conditions. Speeding causes 21 percent of serious crashes that involve a critical teen driving error. Speeding isn’t just going over the posted speed limit, but also going too fast for conditions—including traffic, weather, visibility, and other hazards, such as rough road surfaces. Telling your teen to slow down is often not enough to help him or her learn to be a safe driver. You can help your teen learn how to manipulate the brake and accelerator properly during practice drives by explaining when it is time to ease up on the gas pedal to slow down when approaching an intersection. You can also explain the power of collision energy. When a car is only going 40 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone, it translates into a 78 percent increase in collision energy, meaning an accident at that speed would carry nearly double the force of one at 30 miles per hour.
- Distractions. Distraction is a key factor in 58 percent of crashes involving teens aged 16 to 19. Driving while distracted makes it hard to react to hazards on the roadway, particularly for teens. Common teen distractions include texting, chatting with passengers in the car, changing the radio, eating, or even applying makeup. Teen drivers should also avoid racing other teen drivers, as this is not only a distraction but also increases the risk of an accident due to high speed and improper passing. A recent poll revealed that 50 percent of the respondents between the ages of 16 and 19 admitted to texting while driving. One way you can help protect your teen from the dangers of distracted driving is by modeling good driving behavior, including never using a cell phone, either handheld or hands-free, while driving. Parents should also consider limiting the number of passengers that their teen has in the vehicle at a given time. Having two or more passengers in a vehicle triples the risk of a fatal crash when a teen is driving.
Nighttime Isn’t the Best Time
Only 14 percent of the driving that 16 and 17-year-old drivers do takes place during the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to Teen Driver Source. That time period accounts for 32 percent of fatal crashes among teens. The reduced visibility caused by darkness means that there is less time to react to road signs, upcoming curves, a car swerving into your lane of traffic, or other hazards. It is recommended that parents give their teens plenty of supervised night driving practice before they’re allowed to drive solo in the dark. Additionally, for the first 6 months to a year after obtaining their license, teen drivers should be limited to only driving before 9 p.m., as the time period from 9 p.m. to midnight is when the majority of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur. Additionally, nighttime trips and routes should be planned in advance, taking into consideration that the new driver may be drowsy while driving and should take a route that is well-lit.
Drowsiness is an additional danger for teen drivers. Teens should be reminded about the signs of drowsiness, which include:
- Excessive yawning
- Having trouble keeping your eyes open
- Being unable to remember the past few minutes or seconds
- Driving over the rumble strips more than once
- Experiencing head or body jerks from falling asleep
- An inability to concentrate
- Your car wandering from the road or into the other lane
If your teen exhibits any of the above-listed symptoms, he or she should know to do one or more of the following:
- Pull off the road into a safe parking space. Lock the doors and take a 20-45 minute nap.
- Make a pit stop. Use the bathroom, or get something to drink.
- Sit up straight.
- If there is a passenger in the car, talk to them to help keep yourself awake.
- Play your music loudly, and sing along.
- Roll your windows down, or run the air conditioner full blast in your face.
While learning to drive is an exciting time for teens, it is also something that must be taken seriously for the sake of their lives and the lives of others in the car and on the roadway. Supervision, limits, and patient guidance will help your child become a safe driver, not just when they’re teens, but throughout their entire lives.
Contact Us if a Vehicle Accident Injures Your Teen
If you were injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you should inquire about your eligibility to secure compensation for your injuries. Personal injury cases are often complex and prolonged; let an attorney handle the legal details of your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries. One of our experienced car accident attorneys can help you understand your legal options. To schedule your free consultation and case review with an attorney from Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Accident Injury Lawyers, contact us online or call us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH). We have offices in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and New Port Richey.
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