When most teens begin driving, they see it as a step toward independence and freedom. However, to an immature driver who doesn’t see it as a privilege, this can cause many problems when it comes to safe driving. Teen drivers may be immature and still lack experience that most all adult drivers have. The risk of motor vehicle collisions among teenagers is higher than any other age group. In fact, per miles driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are almost 3 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers of age 20 or older. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. However, there is a simple solution to prevent the likelihood of a teen being in a crash, and it is simply to reacquaint them with basic safety precautions while driving.
A teen’s inexperience behind the wheel also makes them more susceptible to distraction. Teens are still unaware of the effect of distracted driving or prefer to ignore it. Teens are also more likely than older, and experienced drivers to underestimate dangerous situations, which when compared with distracted driving can be very dangerous. Research has found that one in three teens say they have texted while driving. Texting behind the wheel is an extreme distraction and is known to increase the risk of crashing by 23 times.
Taking your eyes and attention off the road for even five seconds could cost a life. Distracted driving can also take many other forms beyond talking and texting. Eating, applying makeup, changing the music, and plenty of other normal activities are considered very distracting while driving. Bottom line, you need to keep your full attention on the road at all times.
Teenagers, who are already prone to potentially risky behaviors alone, can further increase that risk simply by having one of their peers in the car with them. In a study analyzed by NHTSA, teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one or more risky behaviors when driving with one peer, compared to when driving alone. In the same study, it was found that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teenagers in a car.
Speeding is one risky behavior that show constantly in young drivers. In 2016, speeding was a factor in 32 percent of fatal crashes that involved passenger vehicle teen drivers. That number can increase dramatically if more teens were in the car with the driver. Teens need to understand the effect that their peers have on their ability to drive, because the driver is responsible for all of their passengers as well as themselves.
Driving Under the Influence
Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal everywhere in the United States, both inside and outside the car. The U.S. does strictly enforce drunk-driving laws. However, it doesn’t stop many teens from engaging in alcohol related activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely than anyone to be involved in a fatal alcohol-related crash. In 2016, almost one of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. Most people are well aware of the effects of alcohol on decision making, coordination, and other skills necessary for driving.
It is never a good idea to drive under the influence, but it is even less so to have a teen drive under the influence. Even if an impaired teen driver is lucky enough to survive a crash, they will have to face the consequences of breaking drinking laws. Possible consequences include a trip to jail, loss of their driver’s license, and many other expenses. DUI charges can permanently damage a teens academic eligibility and college acceptance.
What does this mean?
By no means am I saying that it is not a good idea to let teenagers drive. Teenagers love the privilege of driving, and it is a great thing to be able to start practicing early for later in life. But especially for young drivers, there needs to be several precautions taken before driving. Teenagers can be totally unaware that they are still very inexperienced, and should still refrain from potentially risky behaviors while driving. As a teenager myself, I know that my parents have a huge impact on the way that I drive, and constantly make sure I know about the dangers of distracted driving. Parents or guardians, you may have more of an influence on your own teenagers than you realize. Just by stressing safe driving, you can have a positive impact on how your teenagers drive.
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1 “Motor Vehicle Safety.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Oct. 2018, www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/index.html.
2 “Teenagers.” IIHS, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Dec. 2018, www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/teenagers/fatalityfacts/teenagers.
3 “Young Drivers.” US Department of Transportation, Feb. 2018, crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812498.