Earning your driver’s license is an exciting rite of passage for nearly every teen. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with the ability to drive yourself wherever you need to go, and getting behind the wheel can feel exhilarating when new. But in the United States, car crashes are one of the leading risks that teenagers face. In 2017, more than 300,000 teens ended up in the emergency room due to injuries sustained during a car crash. Teens account for roughly 8% of all motor vehicle injuries.
Why are teens at such a higher risk for automobile accidents than the rest of the population? A number of factors come into play. That means there are also a number of actions you, as the parent of a teen, can take to attempt to prevent your child from becoming another scary statistic.
The Realities of Teen Car Accidents
Research has shown that teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 have a higher risk of being involved in a car accident than any other age group of drivers. Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for both boys and girls within this age range. According to the Florida Sheriffs Association, the state of Florida has the highest rate of fatal crashes involving teens between the ages of 15 and 19. Our state also has the overall highest rate of deadly automobile accidents, and the second-highest rate of alcohol-related crashes.
Within this age bracket, it has been found that fatal crashes are twice as likely to happen to male drivers than female drivers. Teens who recently received their licenses also pose a higher risk for an accident than those who have had their license for several years. So a 16-year-old driver has a higher crash liability than an 18-year-old driver.
These realities arise from a number of troubling factors, the most prominent being driver inexperience. Young drivers are inherently less experienced with operating a vehicle and following the rules of the road than older drivers, thus leading to a higher rate of crashes. Teens have also been found to be higher risk-takers with a lower risk perception than the average driver. Young drivers tend to overestimate their abilities and underestimate the inherent dangers of driving. This leads to more consistent speeding, tailgating, careless passing, violating traffic and driving laws, and running red lights and stop signs.
There is also data to suggest that teens wear their seat belts less often than older drivers. Only a little over half of surveyed high school students claimed to always wear a seatbelt as a passenger—meaning close to half of teens don’t.
Another leading factor in teen car crashes is distracted driving. It has been found that the risk of being in a fatal car crash is three times greater for drivers aged 16 to 17 when they have other passengers in the car with them. And the higher the number of passengers, the more the risk for a crash increases. Similarly, night driving poses higher risks for teen drivers as well. It has been found that the likelihood of a teen crashing increases three-fold after 9 p.m.
And finally, drinking and driving is another common cause of deadly crashes involving young drivers. Teens who drive impaired are at a higher risk of crashing likely due to the fact that they lack both experience with driving and with drinking alcohol.
Tips for Teaching Your Teens Safe Driving
The best ways to help your teenagers be safe drivers is to lead by example and give them proper instruction when first teaching them to drive. According to TeenDriving.com, some great tips you can follow yourself and also instruct your teens to follow are:
- Buckling up when you first get in the car and insisting that every passenger do the same before you start driving.
- Properly adjust all mirrors, and know where all controls are (signal switch, windshield wipers, headlight switch, etc.) and how to operate them.
- Make a point of regularly checking your side and rear-view mirrors as you drive.
- Always keep two hands on the steering wheel, preferably in the 10 and 2 positions.
- When preparing to make a turn, slow down, yield right-of-way as necessary, and begin and end your turn in the correct lane.
- When backing the vehicle up, check your mirrors and look over your right shoulder.
- Consistently use your signal when changing lanes and always check your blind spot.
- Avoid tailgating and check your speed often.
- Never drive while texting, eating, under the influence, or being otherwise distracted.
- Be aware of weather conditions and understand how to properly operate a vehicle in them.
- Pay attention to hazardous conditions like construction, detours, potholes, etc.
Teaching your kids how to be a safe driver is important, but so is sharing with them the realities of what could happen if they aren’t. Be open and honest about the statistics we’ve shared here, and help them understand what they, their passengers, and people in other cars could face should they participate in reckless or unsafe driving. Severe car accidents can lead to unspeakable occurrences like traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and death. Life can change in an instant when you’re behind the wheel, no matter your age. So teach your kids that driving is a serious responsibility, and they must treat it as such.
No matter how safe a driver you or your children may be, accidents can still happen. You can’t predict how other drivers on the road will behave and may not always have the ability to make safe evasive maneuvers. To best prepare for these moments, make sure your teen drivers are covered on your auto insurance plan before they get behind the wheel for the first time. And if you or your teen suffer severe injuries due to the negligence of another, you may have the ability to seek further damages than what your auto coverage provides. If you’d like to pursue legal action after a car accident, The Whisler Law Firm has years of experience helping clients with their automobile and personal injury cases. We can help you secure the compensation your family deserves, so call us at 833-529-5677 or request an entirely free consultation online. We’ll review your case with no obligations and advise you on your best options.