Could driver’s training coupled with some advanced safety and collision avoidance training help teen drivers avoid car accidents? Some states think so and have instituted additional education courses aimed at teens. Southern Maryland teens have access to the Drive 2 Survive Program, a special collision avoidance class and advanced road safety course for $200. This is in addition to the graduated licensing program in place, which requires all new drivers to take part in classroom and in-car training. Some Florida residents think that a similar program for additional training would help Florida’s new drivers avoid the spinal cord injuries, fatalities, brain injuries, and other serious injuries often caused by car accidents.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, teens represent only 7% of all drivers but are responsible for 20% of car collisions and14% of all motor-vehicle-related deaths. The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association reports that can accidents are the leading cause of death for teens and that 16 year-olds have higher accidents rates than drivers of any other age group. In fact, the same source reports that 16-year-olds are fully 3 times more likely to die in a car accident than adult drivers. Worse, some statistics show that teens may have cavalier attitudes about driving. In 2003, 25% of teenage drivers killed in car accidents had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. In 2001, two thirds of teenage drivers killed in car accidents were not using a seat belt. However, evidence suggests that it is inexperience, not alcohol, that is the leading cause of teenage car accidents.
There are a number of things that parents can do to keep teens safe behind the wheel:
1) Treat driving as a privilege, not a right. Parents can and should remove a driving privilege if a teen shows recklessness behind the wheel or treats driving without a sense of responsibility.
2) Encourage more education. Sign your teen up for more driving education classes and tell your teen that he or she can only borrow the family car after taking defensive training or additional training.
3) Know how well your teen drives. Have your teen drive you to the store or drive you to a few events or places. This will give you a sense of how comfortable your child is behind the wheel of a car and how careful he or she is in obeying the rules of the road. If need be, get your teen to take additional driving instruction before taking the car out.
4) Limit the number of passengers your new teen driver can have in the car. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), nearly 50% of car accident fatalities involving 16-year-old drivers in 2003 took place when new drivers had teen passengers in the car. The IIHS also reports that 16 and 17-year-old motorist fatality rates increase with each additional passenger present in the vehicle. Teen passengers represent a distraction to the driver and can encourage your teen to take risks. Have your teen drive alone or with you before allowing teen passengers.
5) Do not allow your teen distractions in the car. Make sure your teen knows not to use a cell phone or other mobile device in the car for web surfing, texting, or other activities. Make sure your teen does not take their eyes off the road in order to change CDs, look for an item in a purse, or do anything else that reduces concentration.