Prepare a teen driver

Teens see their driver’s license as proof they’re grown up. The piece of plastic with their photo symbolizes greater independence and freedom. What they don’t realize is a license can expose them to danger. Parents should remind teens about the rules they need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel. The rules that address the greatest dangers for teen drivers include not drinking and driving, buckling up, keeping eyes on the road, following the speed limit and limiting the number of passengers.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens age 15 to 18 in the U.S. In 2015, there were 1,972 teen drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes and 99,000 teen drivers were injured.

Below are basic rules parents can use to help reduce the risks for teen drivers:

• No drinking and driving. Underage drinking is a great danger. A teen’s body is unable to process alcohol the same way an adult body does. This means underage drinking can pose unique risks to teens’ health, in addition to those caused by drinking and driving.

• Buckle up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use of any age group. Wearing a seat belt can make the difference between life and death. When used properly, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent. Many think seat belts are only necessary on highways or long trips; however, the most crashes happen within a short distance from home.

• Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. At any given moment across the U.S., about 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving. Our youngest and most inexperienced drivers are most at risk, with 10 percent of all distracted driving crashes involving drivers under the age of 20. Drivers who use hand-held devices or do other distracting activities are four times as likely to be involved in a crash. Teen drivers must remember to put their phone away or get ready to pay.

• Follow the speed limit. Speeding is a major factor in teen crash fatalities. Speeding increases the stopping distance required to avoid a collision and reduces the amount of time a driver needs to avoid a collision (aka 3-second rule). This also increases the likelihood the crash will result in injury. Going 10 mph over the speed limit translates to a 78-percent increase in collision energy.

• Passengers. Extra passengers can lead to disastrous results. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers are 2.5 times more likely to engage in one or more risky behaviors when driving with peers.

Parents can help protect their teen drivers by talking with them about these risks. Laws are not enough to protect young drivers; parents have to set rules and start conversations about safe driving.

For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and safe driving tips for your teens, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving.

Kaitlyn Boehler, coordinator,

Seneca County Safe Communities

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