A driver’s license and the car keys – it’s every teenager’s dream, and most parent’s worst nightmare. While mom and dad cringe as their baby backs out the driveway – alone – for the very first time, the teen’s heart races with the sudden freedom to go where he wants without the ‘rents hovering over him in smothering, over-protection.
Teenagers still operate under the belief that they’re invincible and nothing bad will ever happen to them. After all, the powers-that-be have decided to give them the privilege of driving before their little cerebral cortexes (the brain’s logic center) have fully developed.
As you well know, life isn’t always safe for any teen – especially on the road. Trying to dampen your kid’s excitement so he’ll actually think while he’s behind the wheel? Good luck – You’ll need it! Here’s a list of shocking teen driving stats to help you prove a point to your teen driver.
Death by Auto
Although it’s not quite a death sentence, driving a car can put your child – or someone else – in an early grave. If you think this is an overly dramatic statement, check out these statistics:
• Car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in the U.S.
• Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to die in a crash than drivers between the ages of 25 and 69.
• Teens have the highest chance of having a fatal crash within the first six months of getting their driver’s license.
• 2,739 teenagers died in car accidents in the United States during 2008.
• 5,864 fatal accidents involved teen drivers in 2008. This number is higher than the previous one because the teen driver often has to live with the guilt of causing someone else’s death.
• Teen drivers were involved in 12% of all fatal crashes reported to the police.
• Males are twice as likely as females to be killed in a crash while they’re teenagers.
• 37% of male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 were speeding at the time of a fatal crash.
• 55% of teens killed in car crashes weren’t using their seat belts.
• 31% of teens drivers were drinking alcohol at the time of their death.
• Teen drivers were involved in 63% of teen passenger deaths and 19% of passenger deaths of all ages in fatal accidents.
• 53% of teen deaths in fatal accidents occurred on the weekends and 41% occurred between 9 pm and 6 am.
While the fatal crash is the worst case scenario, it’s not the only thing that can happen to your teen. Each year, accidents caused by teenagers cost millions of dollars in property damage and life-altering physical injuries. Maybe these startling facts will keep your young driver from playing crash-em-up derby with your car:
• Teen drivers are 10 times more likely to be involved in a crash during their first year of driving.
• Teen drivers with more than one teen passenger are twice as likely to be in an accident as a drunk driver.
• 16-year-olds have more accidents than any other age group – including older teens.
• Accidents caused by 15- to 17-year-old drivers caused $34 Billion in damage in the U.S. in 2006.
• 20% of reported accidents involving teen drivers.
Some teens seem to collect tickets like baseball cards and get in a string of accidents. Others breeze through this part of their life as safe drivers with a clean record. If you’d like to make sure your teen driver falls into the second category, here are the major risk factors to work on:
Poor Ability to Detect Hazards – Most teens are still developing their ability to pick out hazards while driving during their early years behind the wheel. This skill develops over time as your driver gains experience.
Poor Ability to Assess Risk – Most teen drivers lack the ability to accurately compare the potential risk of a hazard with their ability to avoid the threat. Usually, they underestimate the hazard and overestimate their skill level – a bad combination. This will also develop with time and experience.
Overconfidence – Teenagers truly believe they’re expert drivers. After all, they did earn their license, didn’t they? Until they learn they’re not as skilled as they think, they’ll engage in dangerous habits like speeding, ignoring traffic lights and signs, tailgating, driving in hazardous weather, and failing to yield.
Developing Skills – Many teen drivers are still developing the basic skills needed to safely control a vehicle under a variety of conditions.
Passengers – Teen drivers increase their chances of having a crash by carrying passengers – especially other teenagers. This could be due to distractions, pressure to perform, or encouragement to break traffic rules.
Driving at Night – Teen drivers are much more likely to be involved in a crash when they drive at night. This could be due to the higher difficulty involved with night driving or because risky behavior, like drinking, happens more often at night.
Alcohol or Drug Use – Although teen drivers are less likely to get behind the wheel while using alcohol and drugs, they are more likely to be involved in an accident if they do.
The best thing you can do to encourage your teenager to practice good driving habits (and other types of habits, too) is to lead by example. Children of all ages don’t seem to do too good with that old “Do as I say, not as I do” adage. If you speed, don’t buckle up, drink and drive, chat on your cell phone, or let your road rage get the best of you, how can you expect your kid to do any better?
If you think your teen couldn’t care less about what you’re doing (or that they don’t even notice), here are a few more numbers – and these are for you:
• 66% of teens say they care what their parents think about cell-phone use while driving.
• 53% of teens say they’ve seen someone drive while impaired (maybe it’s a friend, maybe it was you).
• 56% of teens say they depend on their parents for driving instruction.
Limiting Early Driving for Safety
Even if your teen has their driver’s license, it doesn’t have to be an instant ticket to total freedom. Although you’ll be labeled the “bad” parent, you can restrict your teen’s driving habits to give them time to safely acquire the necessary experience before you turn them loose. Here are a couple strategies that work for many parents:
Limit the Scope – Start your new teen driver off by only allowing them to drive within a certain region close to home. As they prove themselves, slowly extend the boundaries.
Limit the Time – There’s nothing wrong with only allowing your teen driver to operate a vehicle by themselves during daylight hours until they’ve got more driving time under their belt.
Restrict Passengers – Some parents only allow their teen driver to have one other passenger in the car for the first six months to a year of driving.
Cell Phone Use – While it’s almost a requirement for teen drivers to have a cell phone in case of an emergency, tell your child to never, ever talk on their phone or, even worse, text while they’re driving – even if you’re the one calling. They can always pull over before calling back.
Alcohol – Make sure your child knows that there’s no excuse for drinking and driving. This should include telling them that the penalty for calling for a ride home will always be less than driving home under the influence.
The Really Strict Parent – Some parents don’t turn their child loose at all immediately after they get their license. Instead, the teen driver must drive the parent everywhere for a certain period of time to “earn” independent driving privileges. Keep in mind that this plan won’t win you any popularity contests.
If these statistics don’t shock you, there’s not much that will. As your teen gets the picture that driving is serious business, these tips can help keep everyone safe while traveling the local roads and national highways.