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5 tips to reduce car accidents caused by teenage drivers

May 21, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

What parents need to say to their teenagers before handing them the keys

It’s that time of the year again. Teenagers everywhere are restless and excited for upcoming prom, graduation and summer fun. And it’s that time of year when parents everywhere worry and stay up late for their teen drivers to get home safely. And sadly, parent angst and worry is with good reason. Car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teens, according to the National Safety Council. Consider these other statistics from the National Safety Council:

  • One out of five 16-year-olds will be in a car crash.
  • During the first six months and first 1,000 miles of driving, crash risk is the highest it will be during a lifetime.
  • Although young drivers only represent 13 percent of all licensed drivers, they cause 28 percent of all car accidents and 24 percent of all fatal crashes.

As part of National Youth Traffic Safety Month, our accident attorneys have been writing about preventing the number of car accidents caused by inexperienced teen drivers.

5 steps to reduce car accidents caused by teen drivers

The good news is, a teen’s car accident risk can be reduced by a combination of practice, gradual exposure to driving and gradually easing into higher-risk driving situations like night-time driving and driving with other teens in the car, and of course, some mindful parental supervision.

Michigan’s new Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law will help prevent some of these teen car accidents, as teenage drivers with a Level 2 license now have to comply with driving restrictions, including limits on the number of passengers in a vehicle and shorter night driving hours.

Below is an easy list that parents can use to discuss teen driver safety with their kids. It’s also from the National Safety Council.

1. Set a night driving restriction:
Teens drive only 15 percent of their miles at night, but 40 percent of fatal auto accidents happen during that time period. We recommend no unsupervised driving after 10 p.m. Earlier is even better. Also, it’s against Michigan law for teens to drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless they’re driving to or from work, or with a parent, guardian or licensed adult over 21.

2. Set a passenger restriction: For teens, one passenger increases their crash risk by 48 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That risk grows exponentially as more passengers are added – 258 percent more with two passengers and 307 percent more with three or more. The National Safety Council recommends no one under the age of 18 allowed in the car during a teen’s first year of driving. A recent study by the Automobile Association of America’s Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a teen driver’s risk of dying in a car accident sharply increases when there are other teens in the car. Here’s an article about the study in The Washington Post. The car should not be a social environment for teens.

3. Prohibit cell phone use while driving: The National Safety Council estimates show that 23 percent of all car accidents annually involve cell phone use. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found teens are more likely to use cell phones behind the wheel than any other age group. More than half of teens ages 16 to 17 admit to talking on a cell phone behind the wheel, according to the Pew Research Center. Here’s a great New York Times article on distracted driving and teens, and how many young drivers are actually in denial about their distracted driving behavior: Understanding Motives Behind Teens’ Distracted Driving. Parents must stress that this behavior is unacceptable, and set a good example.

4. Prohibit alcohol: Drinking and driving remains a problem among teenagers. According to NHTSA, nearly one-third of drivers ages 15 to 20 who were killed in car accidents had been drinking. Michigan has a zero tolerance law for underage drivers who drink. This means teen drivers cannot legally have any measurable alcohol in their system.

5. Make wearing a seat belt mandatory:
This is the oldest rule in the book. Safety belts are the most effective safety device in the car. Everyone should be buckled up at all times. NHTSA data shows wearing a safety belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by about 50 percent.

Related Information:

Teen distracted driving: Graphic crash video by MDOT


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