National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW) Is October 20-26, 2013

How Safe Is Your Teen Driver?

Perhaps the only thing more challenging than parenting a toddler is parenting a teenager.

When kids are young, they challenge you by throwing tantrums when you won’t let them watch Dora The Explorer for ten hours straight. When they’re older, they scare you by throwing tantrums for similarly ridiculous reasons… and then getting behind the wheel.

Terrifying Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. They claim the lives of seven teens daily, on average. Teens are three times more likely than older drivers to be involved in fatal wrecks. In 2010, 282,000 teens (ages 16 to 19) suffered injuries that required ER treatment. The youngest cohort of drivers (ages 15 to 24) accounted for $19 billion in motor vehicle injury costs. That means that just 14% of the population accounted for 30% of all injury costs.

To address this epidemic, safety groups are promoting National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW), which runs from October 20 to 26, 2013. The theme this year is poignant: “It takes two: shared expectations for teens and parents for driving.”

What Can You Do to Keep Your Son Or Daughter Safer Behind the Wheel?

Understand Who’s at Risk and Why

CDC statistics found that male teen drivers were nearly twice as likely as female counterparts to die in vehicle crashes. Newly licensed teens, and teens who drive with friends are also at elevated risk. A CHOP study found that just three types of errors led to nearly 50% of all serious teen crashes: distracted driving, failing to see a hazard, and speeding.

Understand What Can Be Done

  • The CDC recommends comprehensive Graduated Driver’s Licensing (GDL) programs, which can reduce fatal and serious injury crashes by up to 40% among 16-year-old drivers. GDL programs delay fully licensing teen drivers, while allowing teens to rack up real world driving experience.
  • Keep a driving log of supervised practice to give the teen feedback and guidance.
  • Develop “house rules” for car use, including a total prohibition on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Consider also banning all cell phone use — even hands-free use, which research suggests may be more dangerous than most people realize.
  • Teach skills, such as speed management, scanning, staying out of other drivers’ “no zones,” and timing merges.

Whatever system you develop, make sure it “sticks.” You can’t be there every mile of the way. Be a partner with your teen. Strive for mutual cooperation and healthy feedback.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have created a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that may help families in their commitment to safe driving.  You can download the agreement by clicking here.

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