National teen driver safety week, which runs from October 17th to the 23rd, is the perfect time to emphasize teaching teens about the dangerous behaviors that put young drivers at risk, such as distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving and not wearing seat belts.
National teen driver safety week is something we all need to take more seriously. Even before the explosion on our roads of texting and driving and other forms of driving distraction, teens were already statistically the age group most likely to be involved in a car crash. Teen driver safety week is not just another meaningless event created by politicians.
I’m a car accident lawyer and I’ve witnessed firsthand the heartbreak and anguish involved with teens injured or killed behind the wheel. There is nothing more tragic than helping the family of a teen driver who has been seriously hurt or who was killed in a completely preventable car accident. There is not much we can do about driver inexperience, but there is so much more we can do about teaching our teenagers about distracted driving, speeding, driving intoxicated or drugged, and not wearing seat belts.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death among people age 15-20. Teen drivers between the ages of 16-19 are nearly 3 times more likely to be in a fatal auto accident. And, significantly, we know that driver inexperience and poor driving judgment are the leading causes of teen driver-related injuries and deaths.
As adults and the parents, we can do so much more. We need to continue to educate beyond National Teen Driver Safety Week and we need to set the right example for our teen drivers. Teen drivers model behaviors they observe. I hope by writing this blog post today we can all help protect our teen drivers.
But as a parent myself with two teenagers, I know it can be difficult sometimes to get through to our children. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it is a challenge. Being a parent of a teenager is not for the faint of heart at times.
Having spoken at many high schools to teenagers and parents about distracted driving both during National Teen Driver Safety Week and throughout the year, and as the current President of the American Association for Justice Distracted Driving Litigation Group, I’ve learned that many of the problems of teen drivers begin with driver attitude. Many teens feel they are immortal, which can be a very dangerous thing when driving behind the wheel of a six thousand pound motor vehicle.
While schools, parents and the NHSTA’s National Teen Driver Safety Week are doing a better job teaching children about some dangerous driving dangers (like drinking and driving) , many parents and teachers do not fully appreciate the risks of other increasingly common distractions, such as distracted driving, driving with other teen passengers and becoming distracted from the road, speeding, and cell phone use while driving. Lack of experience – with driving and with life – is always a big safety issue.
Safety tips for National Teen Driver Safety Week
My safety tips for National Teen Driver Safety Week include: (1) No texting and driving; (2) No cell phones while behind the wheel; (3) No distractions; (4) Obey the speed limit; (5) No drinking and driving; (6) Avoid teenage passengers; (7) Keep the noise down; (8) Drive in the day; and (9) Wear a seat belt.
National Teen Driver Safety Week provides an excellent opportunity to discuss each of those points in greater detail:
- No texting while driving – Michigan law prohibits all drivers from texting using a hand-held phone while driving. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash. The AAA-Foundation for Traffic Safety found that newly licensed teen drivers “were three times as likely to look away from the roadway when using an electronic device.”
- No cell phones while behind the wheel – Kelsey’s Law prohibits teen drivers with a Level 1 or Level 2 graduated license status from using a cell phone while driving.
- No distracted driving – In 2019, 11% of all teen car crash fatalities involved distracted driving and 9% of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were teens 15 to 19 years old.
- No speeding – Remember during National Teen Driver Safety Week that NHTSA found that male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 “were the most likely to be speeding at the time of fatal crashes” in 2019. This age group was the second highest among female drivers for speed-related fatal crashes.
- No drinking and driving – In 2019, 24% of the teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were killed in auto accidents had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .01 or higher. Of those, 82% had BACs of .08 or higher. A BAC of .08 is the legal limit for drunk driving in most states.
- Limit or prohibit teen passengers – Remember during National Teen Driver Safety Week that NHTSA has found that, when there are one or more teenage passengers in a vehicle, teenage drivers are 2.5-3 times “more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving” such as speeding, erratic driving, racing and showing off.
- Avoid loud conversations – Research from the AAA-FTS shows that newly licensed teen drivers “were approximately six times more likely to have a serious incident when there was loud conversation in the vehicle.”
- Limit nighttime driving – Forty percent “of motor vehicle crash deaths among teen drivers and passengers aged 13–19 occurred between 9 pm and 6 am” in 2019, according to the CDC
- Wear seat belts – Forty-six percent of teen drivers who were killed in fatal crashes in 2019 “were unrestrained.” It is important to remember during National Teen Driver Safety Week that NHTSA data shows wearing a safety belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by about 50 percent.
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(Sources: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Fact Sheets, “Teens/Young Adults Ages 15-20,” 2020; AAA – Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers”; CDC – Keep Teen Drivers Safe; NHTSA, “Teen Distracted Driver Data,” “Teens and Distracted Driving – 2019,”; NHTSA, Traffic Tech, “The Effect of Passengers on Teen Driver Behavior”; NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts, 2019 Data, Speeding; CDC, Teen Drivers: Get The Facts; NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts, 2019 Data, “Young Drivers”)