Teen Drivers

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), inexperience behind the wheel makes teen drivers more susceptible to distraction. Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness offers parents and families information to help teen drivers prevent distracted driving.

What Causes Accidents With Teen Drivers?

According to the NHTSA, about 1 in 3 teens who text say they have done so while driving. NHTSA research has found that dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times.

While many may think teen driving accidents are due to aggressive driving, it’s more often critical errors due to inexperience. These errors include:

  • Failure to scan, detect and respond to road hazards
  • Driving too fast for road conditions
  • Distraction from something inside or outside the vehicle

The leading causes and contributing factors in accidents with teen drivers include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Driving while drowsy
  • Driving under the influence of substances
  • Not using a seatbelt or two-point seatbelt
  • Speeding

What Families Can Do to Support Teen Drivers

Families can take steps to help teens drive safely and stay safe:

  • Be an example for your child. Model good driving behavior for your child. Keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and model the behaviors you want your child to have as a driver. Children will notice the difference between your driving and how you’re telling them to drive. Teen drivers often learn from watching adults drive.
  • Talk about the responsibility of driving. Remind your child that driving is a skill that takes a person’s full attention. Share experiences, personal or those you’ve read, about teen drivers and distracted driving. Share statistics about distracted driving regarding texting or using a phone. Consider asking your child to sign a pledge that includes expectations for road safety and avoiding distraction, which could include:
    • Limiting the number of passengers in the car while your child drives
    • Hours your teen can drive
  • Know your state’s laws. Many states have graduated driver licensing laws that enforce guidelines on teen drivers. Additionally, many states have novice driver provisions within distracted driving laws. Talk to your child about these laws, including the consequences for breaking the graduated licensing law or distracted driving laws.
  • Set consequences. If your child breaks a rule you’ve set around driving, consider suspending their driving privileges or further limit when they can drive or the places they can drive to. Additionally, limiting access to a phone or other electronic devices as punishment could be seen as a serious consequence for their actions.

What Teen Drivers Can Do

Individuals cannot drive safely without paying full attention to the road. Any activity, from texting to eating or drinking and chatting with passengers, can be a distraction that increases the risk of crashing the car. Teens can take action to prevent distracted driving:

  • Consider completing the Distracted Teen Driver Challenge to see how quickly something can divert your attention while driving.
  • Speak up if you are with a friend or family member who is driving distracted.
  • Sign a distracted driving pledge and encourage your friends to do so.
  • Lead by example when driving your friends and family.

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