For many teens, the arrival of summer means the end of high school and the beginning of a new chapter of life. Teens use their spare time to socialize with friends, and safety often is one of the last things on their minds.
However, summer isn’t quite as carefree as it seems. Memorial Day and Labor Day – the unofficial beginning and ending of summer – bookend what’s known as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers on our nation’s roadways. During this period, hundreds of teens die in horrific and preventable car crashes. Each year, we work to decrease fatalities, and we ask parents to help.
Parents play a vital role in keeping their teen drivers safe all year, but it’s imperative parents don’t become lax with the house rules. It’s tempting to give teens additional privileges when they are out of school, but those liberties shouldn’t jeopardize safety. Nothing – no trip to the beach, concert or movie night – is worth the risk.
Here are five reminders for parents whose teens are navigating the deadliest time of the year behind the wheel:
- Friends can be fatal. Driving or riding with other teens is one of the biggest risks facing teen drivers. Peers are distracting to new drivers. Parents should not allow their teen to carry or ride with other teens, regardless of state law. Just one teen passenger increases a teen driver’s crash risk by 48 percent.
- Stay off the roads after dark. New drivers do not have enough experience to properly gauge the complex nighttime driving environment. And they don’t have to be out very late to be at risk. Most fatal nighttime teen-related crashes happen before midnight. Parents should require their teens to be off the roads before 10 p.m.
- Seat belts save lives. Since they became mandatory in 49 states, seat belt use has significantly increased among the driving population. Unfortunately, teens still have the lowest seat belt usage rates. Parents should make sure their teens use seat belts on every trip and set a good example by using belts as well.
- Silence the cell phone. Behind the wheel isn’t the place for chatting, updating statuses, texting or emailing. Cell phone use – handheld and hands-free – increases crash risk fourfold, regardless of a driver’s age or level of experience. Parents need to enforce a cell phone ban with their teen drivers.
- Experience is critical. Parents should drive with their teens for at least 30 minutes each week, even after teens receive unrestricted licenses. Supervised driving is one of the only ways teen drivers get the behind-the-wheel experience they need. Parents can sign up to receive weekly driving lessons and tips at driveithome.org.
Parents should establish household driving rules with their teens. To ensure compliance and accountability, teens and parents can sign a parent/teen agreement the consequences for violating set rules.
These tips can help parents control teen driving environments while teens gain much needed experience behind the wheel. For more tips, visit driveithome.org.