Parents of teenagers have a lot to worry about. But nothing is as scary for a parent when they have to hand the car keys over to their teen. If the idea of turning your teen loose on the world behind the wheel of a thousand pound death machine keeps you up at night, you’re not alone. Statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tell a tale of woe among teenage drivers. As expected, they’re not all the careful drivers we hope they are.
Fatal crashes are especially high in the summer months when teenagers are out of school. Statistically, fatal car crashes rise by nearly a thousand deaths in the summer months. And in teenage driving cases, the monthly average of 363 crashes rises to 422. The risks skyrocket even higher in the month of August, deemed the most dangerous month to drive.
SUMMER VACATION INCREASES RISK OF DRIVING FATALITIES
But why are teenage driving fatalities so common in summer and not in the winter?
- During the summer months, teenagers are out of school and likely bored. Without 8 hours of classes and extracurricular sports and clubs in which to participate, your teen might want to grab some friends and go for a ride. With no particular aim or particular destination, trouble can be waiting around the corner.
- Teenagers are new and inexperienced drivers. Let’s face it; teenagers are still pretty new to driving. Even with extensive driving instruction, or white knuckle supervision on your part, teenagers haven’t been driving that long. Their reactions are new and their responses aren’t yet attuned to the dangers of the road.
- Your teen is easily distracted. You may have noticed that your teenager seems to have the attention span of a fruit fly. And unfortunately, driving requires paying close attention to the road. Statistics show that when teens have one passenger in the car, their accident risk raises by 48%. With 3 or more passengers in the car, this risk raises to 307%.
KEEP YOUR TEENAGE DRIVER SAFE
Accidents are a reality of life, but you can take steps to prevent accidents.
- Teach your teenager how to drive defensively. There are many hazards on the road that driving instructors don’t teach. Why don’t you hop in the car with your teenager and teach them how to respond to these common hazards?
- Draft a driving contract with your teenager. Explain the rules and your expectations for their use of the car. Explain why you don’t want them to eat and drive or why you want to limit the amount of passengers in the car. Help your teen to understand what kinds of distractions you’re trying to limit.
- Institute a driving curfew. If accidents increase after dark, ask your teenager to have the car back by dusk. You can encourage this behavior by fixing a family dinner and asking your child to be home in time to participate.
- Educate your teenager about dangerous behaviors like teenage drinking. Bring them to one of the hosted Mothers Against Drunk Driving talks where a parent tells the story of losing their child to a drunk driver.
You can’t always be there when your teenager is behind the wheel. But you can try to encourage positive driving behaviors and responses in your teen. If despite your best preparation, your teenager gets into an accident, you may want to talk to an attorney to discuss your legal options.