According to the most recent accident data, 2,800 teen drivers were killed and 227,000 were injured in car accidents in 2020 alone.
Teen drivers naturally have less experience behind the wheel. Being young and fearless, they are also more likely to engage in risky driving behavior. They can also be more vulnerable to distraction and uncertain driving conditions.
Thanks to these factors, car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teens in the US.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to keep your teen driver safe out there on the road and reduce their risk of accidents.
By instilling key driving safety habits, you can ensure that your teen behaves responsibly, even though they’re a new driver.
Read on for a list of safety measures to teach your teen and some of the ways you can help them become a responsible driver.
Make the Driver’s Seat a No-Phone Zone
As a parent, you’ve probably had to nag your teen more than once to get off their phone. To which you might be met with mutinous looks, long sighs, or the provocative comeback “Okay boomer.”
Negotiating phone time at home is normal, but there can be no negotiating when it comes to driving. The driver’s seat needs to be a strictly no-phone zone.
Accident data shows that 9 people are killed every day by distracted driving. Distractions typically come in three main forms:
- Taking your eyes off the road
- Taking your hands off the wheel
- Diverting your mental attention
Unfortunately, using one’s phone while driving triggers all three of these distractions at once.
Make sure your teen driver understands the risks of distracted driving, and how lethal it is to take your eyes or mind off the road, or your hands off the wheels. Explain why using one’s phone involves all of these, and establish protocols for phone-free driving.
One of the best habits to instill in your teen driver is to have them turn their phone on silent and place it in their bag or in the glove compartment. Incoming notifications can be a distraction trigger, even if they don’t check the notifications while on the road.
Discourage Snacking While Driving
Eating can be another big contributor to distracted driving. Make sure your teen doesn’t get into the habit of snacking while behind the wheel or drinking beverages like soda and coffee.
Of course, there are times when it might be important to take a sip of water during long stretches on the road, but as a new driver, your teen probably isn’t undertaking country-wide road trips.
Besides instructing your teen not to let snacking make them a distracted driver, you can also help them stick to this habit by making sure they’ve had a meal, snack, or something to drink before taking the car out.
Make It a Habit to Input Addresses Before Pulling Off
Another way you can ensure your teen isn’t a distracted driver is by making sure they input address details into the GPS before pulling away.
Trying to type in coordinates or an address while navigating traffic is not a good idea, even for an experienced driver.
Another good practice to instill in your teen driver is to have them adjust things like the radio and climate controls before they hit the road. If they’re trying to change the radio station, pull up their favorite Spotify playlist, or turn up the AC, this can also be a major source of distraction.
If they need to adjust the GPS route, climate control, or music settings while driving, have them instruct a passenger to do it, or pull off to a safe spot on the side of the road.
Remind Your Teen Driver to Adjust Their Mirrors
Another important adjustment to make before hitting the road is setting mirrors and seats correctly. If your teen is using your car, there’s a good chance they’ll need to pull the seat forward or back and adjust the backrest, headrest, or mirrors. Changing these adjustments while stationery is a lot easier and less dangerous than doing it out on the road.
This practice will also get them into the critical habit of checking their mirror adjustments every time they get into the driver’s seat, no matter what car they’re in.
Say No to Speeding
You’ve probably heard the saying “speed kills”. Data backs this up, revealing that speeding was a contributing factor in 29% of all traffic fatalities during 2020.
Unfortunately, teenagers are one of the demographics most likely to speed.
Analysis shows that teen drivers have a higher proportion of speeding-related fatalities than all other age groups. This analysis covers the years 2015-2019, but it’s unlikely that the data has changed substantially since then.
As a new driver, putting foot and having fun on the freeway can be very tempting. Peer pressure can also be a motivating factor for teens to speed.
Therefore, don’t just lecture your teen not to speed. Explain to them why speeding can be so lethal, and how the risk of an accident increases with every mile per hour they’re traveling.
If you furnish them with the facts, this will also equip them with a logical argument should friends or peers try to pressurize them to step on the gas. Instead of just saying “it’s dangerous” they’ll be able to be the adult in the situation.
Another good habit you can teach your teen driver that will help them avoid the temptation to speed is leaving early. If they get into the habit of leaving early, this will prevent them from speeding in fear of running late. It can also help them to remain calm and focused on the road.
Besides keeping them safe, leaving early is an overall positive habit that will serve them their whole life.
Of course, there might be situations they can’t control that cause them to run late. Explain that in the rare instances where this happens, it’s always better to be late than to speed.
Being late might be embarrassing or stressful. But the potential repercussions are far less serious than for speeding.
Make Seat Belts a Non-Negotiable
If you want to keep your teen safe on the road you have to make seat belts a non-negotiable. Seat belts do save lives, and all states have seat belt laws except New Hampshire.
Teen drivers are one of the demographics most likely to not adhere to seat belt laws. Car accident stats show that over 50% of teen drivers and passengers killed in crashes weren’t wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
It’s essential to explain to your teen the importance of seat belts and insist they wear them at all times. They should also ensure that any passengers also wear seatbelts.
A good way to get into the habit of wearing one’s seat belt is to make it a rule not to start the engine until everyone is buckled up.
Talk to Them About Their Responsibility to Others
One of the reasons why teens take risks out on the road is because of optimism bias. Optimism bias is the inherent feeling that “it won’t happen to me.” Roughly 80% of us have some level of optimism bias, but teenagers are even more likely to suffer from it than older adults.
In other words, teens often feel themselves at a lower risk of “bad things happening” than others.
Optimism bias is ingrained and subconscious, and you’re not likely to shift it, no matter how much you regale your teen with car accident stats.
But one way to circumvent optimism bias is to have a serious talk with your teen about their responsibility to others on the road.
Explain to them the havoc they can wreak on pedestrians, other drivers, and passengers through reckless driving. Talk to them about the potential automobile injuries others could face, injuries that could cost them their livelihoods and leave them disabled.
Explain the Legal Repercussions of At-Fault Accidents
Another way you can illustrate the importance of good driving habits is to explain to your teen the potential legal repercussions of accidents.
Different states have different accident laws and ways of determining liability.
For instance, in an at-fault state, the driver who behaved the most negligently will be held liable for the accident. In pure comparative states, negligence is split across both parties (if both were at fault), which affects how much each party can claim from insurance.
If you’re in a no-fault accident state all drivers are required to carry personal injury insurance, which they can claim in the event of an accident.
Explain the Dangerous of Drinking and Driving
Although underage drinking and driving under the influence are both illegal, 29% of drivers killed in teen car accidents in 2020 were revealed to have been drinking.
Therefore, it’s imperative that you explain the dangers of drinking and driving to your teen.
Also, keep in mind that the peer pressure to drink can be immense, and even the most responsible, serious-minded kids could fall prey to it. Make it clear to your teen that if they find themselves in a situation where they’ve been pressurized into drinking alcohol, they must not be afraid to call you to either pick them up or arrange an uber.
Limit the Number of Passengers Your Teen Driver Can Carry
Another way you can increase your teen’s safety as a new driver is to limit how many passengers they’re allowed to carry, especially if they are also young adults. Taking their friends out in the car is probably every teen’s dream, but it can be a recipe for distracted driving.
Ideally, your teen should drive without other teenage or young adult passengers for the first six months after getting their license. After that, slowly increase the number of passengers they can take.
Explain the Dangers of Having Loud Music Playing
Teens often tend to turn up the sound, especially if they’re the ones behind the wheel. While you can’t necessarily blame them, this isn’t a safe habit to encourage.
Music needs to be soft enough so your teen driver can hear nearby horns, shouts, and oncoming emergency vehicles.
Make Sure They Maintain Safe Following Distances
Maintaining following adequate distances is a key safety habit that many drivers of all ages forget about. Emphasize to your teen how vital following distances are, especially about speed.
Ensure Your Teen Is Well-Rested Before They Get Behind the Wheel
Driving while fatigued is a common contributing cause to accidents. Teens need a lot of sleep and are less likely to function well if sleep deprived. Therefore, make sure that your teen is well-rested before allowing them to drive the car.
Model Good Driving Habits
If you want to ensure your teen driver stays safe, it’s essential to model good driving habits. How are they supposed to practice safe driving habits if you don’t?
Kids tend to learn by example, so take time to evaluate your driving habits and see where you’re falling short. You can even ask your teen if they can think of safety habits you could employ or improve on.
Teach Them About Car Insurance
One of the mistakes a lot of parents make is not raising the topic of car insurance with their teen driver. If you have a new driver in the family, you will need to add them to your car insurance policy.
This increases the monthly premium, and your teen should be aware of this. Show them the monthly bill before and after so they can appreciate the privilege of driving. You can also show the rate increases for things like speeding tickets and accidents, and outline the real costs of everything from a fender bender to a DUI.
Finally, you should also explain to your teen that accidents can often incur legal fees. Even a minor auto accident might require you to hire a lawyer if the insurance company doesn’t cooperate.
Walk Them Through the Legal Repercussions of Auto Accidents
It’s not always enough to tell your teen “this is a bad idea”. The more they know why something is a bad idea, the more likely they are to assimilate the risks and act accordingly.
Therefore, it might be helpful to have a talk with your teen about the potential legal repercussions of being in a car accident.
In a no-fault state like Arizona, drivers can face less severe consequences if their actions resulted in an accident. However, they may still be liable for economic and non-economic damages resulting from serious automobile injuries. If there is a fatality, at-fault drivers can be charged with vehicular homicide, which is felony murder.
Do You Need Legal Help for Your Teen Driver?
Thanks to a lack of experience, peer pressure, and youthful confidence, teen drivers are more at risk of encountering accidents while out on the road. Teaching your teen the above habits can go a long way toward keeping them safe and helping them become a skillful, responsible new driver.
However, accidents can still happen, and when they do you need to make sure your legal interests are represented. Teen drivers aren’t automatically at-fault, but the other party might try to use their inexperience against them.
If your teen driver has been involved in an accident, we’re here to help.
Contact Sweet Lawyers today for a free consultation.