According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicle accidents are the number one cause of teenage deaths in the United States. When evaluated against all other drivers, teenagers are involved in triple the number of fatal accidents. This shocking statistic is why National Teen Driver Safety Week was established.
History of National Teen Driver Safety Week
In 2007, Pennsylvania Representative Charlie Dent (R) and Senator Bob Casey (D) joined forces to co-sponsor a congressional resolution to create National Teen Driver Safety Week after learning about a series of tragic teenage accidents in their state. The resolution quickly gained the support of traffic safety experts around the country. Held during the week of October 15 to 21 (always the third week in October), National Teen Driver Safety Week reminds us that this week and every week, parents should have conversations with their teens about the important rules they need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel. These rules address the greatest dangers for teen drivers: alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and number of passengers.
Teen driver safety strategy
When the NHTSA looked closely at the statistics, they noticed similarities in the causes of teen accidents that prompted researchers to develop a strategy:
- Increase the use of seat belts among teens
- Implement a graduated driver licensing program
- Reduce access to alcohol by teens and increase parental responsibility
Most vulnerable to car fatalities are drivers ages 15 to 20. This age group accounts for the highest number of highway deaths for the following reasons:
- Inexperience behind the wheel and immaturity in making decisions
- Drinking alcohol or being under the influence of drugs when driving
- Driver and car passengers not wearing seat belts
- Easily distracted by cellphones, music or other teen passengers
- Drowsiness when driving
- Careless nighttime driving
Parents set an example
An important part of teaching your teenagers safe driving skills is to “practice what you preach.” If you frequently break the speed limit laws, run red lights and talk or text illegally on your cellphone, you shouldn't be surprised when your teens follow your example. If traffic laws don't apply to you, why would your teens believe they apply to them?
Teaching teens critical driving skills
If you're a safe driver and you hope that your teens will emulate your good habits, learn how to balance constructive criticism when teaching them how to drive safely. There are three problem areas where parental guidance is needed:
- Managing speed. Teach your teens how to look for speed signs; explain why speeds are reduced in residential and congested zones and how to adjust driving speed during bad weather, at night and on unlighted roads.
- Reducing distractions. Statistic show that when teens drive in a vehicle filled with other teens, the driver is easily distracted. Teen drivers are also more susceptible to peer pressure to speed up or raise the radio volume. When your teens drive, limit the number of passengers allowed in the car and forbid any use of cellphones or other electronic devices while the car is in motion.
- Scanning the road ahead. Teen drivers must learn why it's important to pay attention when they drive. Teens are at an age when they feel invincible. Impress upon them why it's important to pay closer attention to their surroundings and to develop the habit of looking at the road ahead to detect possible hazards. When teens learn how to be proactive drivers, they will have enough time to react, thus avoiding an accident.
Safety Insurance supports National Teen Driver Safety Week and has partnered with Safe Roads Alliance and Travelers Marketing to develop The Parent's Supervised Driving Guide. Look for it at all Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicle locations.