Memorial Day through Labor Day is the most dangerous time of the year for teens to be on the road, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Statistics from Tire Rack Street Survival,a national nonprofit teen driving education program, show that over the past five years combined, an average of eight teens (aged 16-19) were killed in car accidents every single day during these months—a trend that is likely to continue in 2013.
“Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main factors leading to the high crash rate among teens,” said Loretta Worters, vice president with the I.I.I. “Even the best teenage drivers don’t have the judgment that comes with experience. It affects their recognition of, and response to, hazardous situations and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating.”
A study from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) indicates that deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers were up 19 percent between the first six months of 2011 and the first six months of 2012. If the final 2012 data follows this trend, 2012 would be the second year in a row of increases in teen driver deaths, following eight years of declines.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds and research shows that more than half of teens who die in crashes are passengers, most of whom are not wearing a seatbelt. In addition, studies have shown that a young driver’s chance of getting in a fatal accident doubles when a teen passenger is in the car. With three or more passengers, the risk quadruples.
When it comes to teen drivers, the biggest concern is risky behavior—eating, talking on their cell phones or text messaging. “They often don’t wear their seatbelts and the distraction of a teen passenger just adds to the risks facing young drivers. Fortunately there are steps you can take to protect your teen,” noted Worters.
Parents should take an active role in their teenagers’ driving practice and expose them to driving in a wide variety of driving conditions to build experience and confidence. If your state does not have a Graduated Drivers License program, you can institute the same policies with your own children. Introduce privileges gradually. Allow independent driving only after continued practice, including night driving and driving in inclement weather.
“Parents should consider whether their child is ready to drive,” advised Worters. “The law says no one under 18 can be issued a learners permit without parental permission. Keep in mind teens do not all reach the appropriate level of maturity to handle a drivers license at the same time. Parents should consider whether their children are easily distracted, nervous or risk takers before allowing them to get a license or even a learners permit.”
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