October 17-23, 2021 is National Teen Driver Safety Week, an observance that confronts the grim reality of teen driving and encourages parents to take action.
Now in its 14th year, National Teen Driver Safety Week works to raise awareness about how our youngest and most inexperienced motorists are more likely to be involved in fatal auto accidents than any other age group. According to NHTSA and the CDC:
- Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death for teens (15-17 years old) in the U.S.
- In 2019, nearly 2,400 teens (13-19) in the U.S. were killed in vehicle crashes and approximately 258,000 were treated in the ER.
- That same year, 2,042 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers, with 628 of those deaths being the teen driver.
These numbers paint a concerning picture: every day, approximately seven teens die in motor vehicle crashes, and hundreds more are injured.
Common Driving Dangers for Teens
Driving is a complex task for even the most seasoned motorist. But for teens who lack the experience to recognize dangerous situations and make critical decisions that prevent crashes, even seemingly minor risks can spell disaster.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, 75% of serious teen driver crashes involve “critical errors,” with three errors accounting for roughly half of these crashes:
- Lack of scanning to detect and respond to hazards.
- Speeding / going too fast for road conditions.
- Being distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle.
Data from the CDC provides additional insight into other risk factors involving teen motorists:
- Gender: Male drivers aged 16-19 died in crashes at a rate 2x that of female teens in 2019.
- Teen passengers: The presence of another teen increases crash risks for unsupervised teen drivers, and risks increase with each additional teen passenger.
- Newly licensed drivers: Crash risks for teens in the first months of licensure are about 1.5x higher that risks for teen motorists with more experience.
- Nighttime / weekend driving: In 2019, 40% of teen motor vehicle crashes occurred between 9pm and 6am, and over 50% occurred on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
- Alcohol: In 2019, nearly a quarter (24%) of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system, and 82% of those drivers had a BAC level of .08 or higher.
How Parents Can Help
Parents have the power to instill safe driving behaviors in their young motorists. Here are a few tips for those who want to help their kids stay safe:
- Enforce your state’s teen driver laws. All states have a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system to help teens build driving skills under low-risk conditions. Because studies show GDL systems work in reducing teen crashes, parents should know the laws in their state and enforce them.
- Create a “New Driver” deal. State laws impose important rules, but they don’t address all issues needed to protect new teen drivers. To fill in the gaps, parents can establish their own ground rules or create a New Driver Deal with their teens to address household rules about passengers, nighttime driving, and cell phone use behind the wheel.
- 6 Rules for the Road. NHTSA reminds parents to ensure their teen drivers learn the 6 rules of the road before they get the keys. These include no cell phones while driving, no speeding, no alcohol, no passengers, no drowsy driving, and no driving without a seatbelt.
- Driver Inexperience. Crash risks are highest for newly minted drivers, particularly within the first months and first year of licensure. Parents can help their kids build confidence by providing at least 30-50 hours of supervised practice over at least 6 months, practicing in a variety of conditions, and stressing the importance of continually scanning for hazards.
- Practice what you preach. Parents should strive to set a good example when driving. This means using signals, following at a safe distance, going the speed limit, and never driving after drinking.
If you are a parent who sees a teen driver engaging in dangerous behaviors, talk to your child (or their parents) about the importance of prioritizing safety and establish some ground rules that keep your kids and others safe on the road. To aid the conversation, parents and teens can find helpful pointers from the NSC.
Hurt in an Accident? The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., Can Help.
Our attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., are parents too, and we know that even the safest motorists can suffer injuries and losses when negligence leads to preventable crashes. If you or someone you love have been harmed in an auto accident, we’re available to review your case and discuss your options for recovering the compensation you deserve.
To speak with a lawyer, call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online.