Deadly teen car accidents happen everyday, so it’s no wonder that handing over the car keys to your teenager might be one of parenting’s most anxiety-ridden milestones. It can be difficult to picture your child — who seemed to be learning to walk only yesterday — handling a motor vehicle. It may seem that your teen can barely make a sound decision about what to eat for breakfast, let alone a safe split-second driving decision.
Unfortunately, parents are right to be concerned. According to a 2014 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), six teens age 16-19 die every day in the US from injuries sustained in motor vehicles. This is almost a school bus full of children every week! According to NBC News, young driver deaths increased by 10% in 2015.These harrowing statistics offer a very clear picture of the risks your teens face when they get behind the wheel of a car, or into the car of a friend. But why are teens more at risk than other drivers? And how can you educate your child to help prevent a crash?
Teenage Driving is Risky Business
Kids that are aged 16-19 are 3 times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to die in a car accident. According to the CDC, your teen’s risk of crashing is highest in the first year he or she has a license. Inexperience leads to inaccurate assessment of danger and errors in judgment.
Graduated Driver’s Licensing Programs (GDLs) may help to reduce these risks. The state of Pennsylvania has a GDL, which requires drivers under the age of 18 to undergo at least 50 hours of supervised driving before they are able to obtain a restricted driver’s license. While supervising your teen’s driving, you can personally teach them to scan the road for potential dangers, accompany them in an array of driving scenarios, and help them stay focused while driving.
Tips for Preventing Teen Car Accidents
Teens are highly susceptible to distraction, and unfortunately distracted driving can be fatal. A recent AAA study found that distraction was a factor in 60% of teen car accidents! Distractions include talking on the phone, texting, fidgeting with music, and interacting with other passengers in the car. Parents can model focused driving by keeping cell phones out of reach while driving and should insist that teens do the same.
Pennsylvania law limits the number of passengers a teenager can have to the number of seat belts in the vehicle, but your teen will be safer if he drives alone or with an adult. Research shows that the risk of teen car accidents increases when teens have other teen passengers in their vehicle. In addition, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, crash risk and fatality risk increase as the number of teen passengers increases. Many parents choose to limit their teen driver’s passengers to zero or one in the first six months to a year of driving.
Seat Belts Save Lives
In 2014, 53% of the teens involved in fatal crashes were not wearing a seat belt. Parents should enforce seat belt wearing in their own cars at all times and insist that teens follow this basic safety guideline when they are behind the wheel or in a friend’s car.
Remind your teens that they could increase the likelihood of surviving a crash by more than 50% by simply wearing a seat belt. In Pennsylvania, drivers can receive a ticket for not wearing a seat belt if they are pulled over for another reason, but cannot be pulled over for this alone.
Teen Car Accidents While Driving Under the Influence
Unfortunately it is still a fairly common practice for teens to drink and drive. Even if a teen has had a very small amount to drink, he is more likely to be involved in a crash.
Male drivers are especially at risk, considering that boys age 16-19 are twice as likely to die in a car accident than females of the same age. Research shows that when parents are involved in making decisions with their teenage drivers, risky driving behaviors such as drinking and driving decrease.
Draft a Parent/Teen Driving Agreement
It is important to have regular discussions about safety and keep an open dialogue with your teen about driving. In addition, the CDC recommends creating a driving contract with your teen. This agreement is a way to be clear about your family’s driving rules and boundaries. You can discuss the basic safety parameters with your teen and outline them in a “contract,” and then you can all sign the document. Use this agreement as a guideline if you like, or create your own. Your agreement can clearly state consequences for any rule infractions so that everyone in the family understands the boundaries.
Teen Car Accident Attorneys
If your teen has been involved in a car accident, the experienced attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum can help. We have over 25 years of experience litigating personal injury cases in the greater Philadelphia area. If your family has suffered a tragedy, call today to schedule a free consultation. Our Media and West Chester, PA locations are convenient and easy to access.