Your teen is ready to hit the road. Naturally, this can cause your anxiety levels to rise. This MasterKit will arm you with resources to help keep your teen safe in the face of common distractions and other drivers. You’ll learn high-risk situations new drivers should avoid, habits to promote safer driving, and cost-saving tips for insuring a teen driver.
4 Riskiest Times for Teens to Drive (and How to Keep Them Safe)
Teen drivers are at a higher risk of accidents during certain time periods. Fortunately, many accidents are preventable. Find out when and how to keep your budding driver safe during high-risk times.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, your kids go from taking their first steps to learning how to drive. This teenage milestone can cause parental anxiety, since car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Sadly, on average six young people between 16 and 19 succumb to injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes every day.1
These sobering statistics can be tempered by preventative efforts on the part of both parent and teen. Although safe driving is always important, such measures are critical during four specific time periods that are proven to be especially high-risk for novice drivers.
1. Their First 12 Months
The Risks: A little experience can go a long way, especially when it comes to driving. A 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 16- to 17-year-olds are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than their 18- to 19-year-old counterparts. So, those first 12 months are a critical time period for new drivers.2
Many accidents in these early years are caused by inexperience, inattention, or distraction. If a teen starts off with bad driving habits like texting, following too closely, running red lights, or speeding, they're more likely to continue those as they get older.
What Parents Can Do: At the very minimum, insist that your teen follow your state's Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program and earns driving privileges over time. Restrictions and regulations vary by state, but the GDL works. Since it was enacted, teen crashes have been on the decline, especially among younger drivers, and those with multiple teenage passengers.3 In fact, states with the strictest GDL requirements have had between 16 to 22 percent fewer crashes, as well as a 26 to 41 percent decrease in fatal accidents involving 16-year-old teens.4
But during these first 12 months you also have the responsibility of ensuring that your teen masters several driving skills, including merging with traffic, driving two- and four-lane roads, and determining the right of way.5
Do you have a new teen driver? Click here to learn about the 4 riskiest times for them to drive. It could save their life.
2. "100 Deadliest Days"
The Risks: The period from Memorial Day to around Labor Day makes up the "100 Deadliest Days," the notorious timeframe in which teen deaths due to car crashes sharply increase. A 2016 study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that the previous five years had a 16 percent increase in traffic deaths involving teen drivers during this time, when compared to other days of the year. This equates to ten deaths every day during this season due to crashes involving teen drivers.6
The reason for this spike is that teens are out of school and spending more time on the roadways. Too often, they practice risky behaviors like distracted driving, which is a factor in a whopping 60 percent of teen crashes.5 This includes using a cell phone in any way (talking, texting or otherwise operating), talking to passengers or trying to do something else while behind the wheel, like applying makeup or eating.
What Parents Can Do: Old-fashioned as it may sound, driving really is a privilege and a responsibility. Take the time to fill out and discuss a parent-teen driving contract, which sets hard and fast parameters and expectations about the particulars of driving, including basic roadway rules, how to handle drug and alcohol-involved situations, and the importance of remaining distraction-free while driving. Establish and truly enforce punishments should any of these rules be broken.
Be sure to keep your side of the bargain and set a good example too. A 2012 study by Liberty Mutual found that 91 percent of parents have talked on a cell phone while driving, and 59 percent have sent a text. Twenty percent of parents even admitted having driven under the influence of alcohol, 49 percent have driven without wearing a seatbelt, and more than 88 percent drive over the speed limit.7
It's important to take your driving seriously and know it’s never too late to improve your habits. If your teenager sees you taking safety to heart, most likely he will too.
3. Driving After Dark
The Risks: When the sun goes down, the risk goes up for all drivers, but none more so than teens - 50 percent of 2014 car crashes that resulted in teen deaths happened between the hours of 3 p.m. and midnight.8 Contributing factors include rush hour, impaired drivers, fatigue, difficulty seeing at night, and overall lack of adequate light.
What Parents Can Do: Insist that your teen get at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night, and caution them against the dangers of drowsy and impaired driving. Almost every state limits nighttime driving for teens in some way, but consider instituting stricter rules around your house.
For example, many states allow teens to drive until midnight, but you can further restrict your teen to a 10 p.m. driving curfew. This could be potentially life-saving, since 31 percent of fatal accidents from 2009 to 2014 involving 16- and 17-year-olds occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., with nearly three out of five happening between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight.9 These late-night drives tend to be more recreational, and when teens are more easily distracted or take more risks, so setting an earlier driving curfew is a good idea.
It's also critical to give your teen after-dark driving instruction. Once your teen is comfortable with driving during the day, spend as many hours as possible as a passenger with them at night. They need to be able to navigate landmarks in the dark, drive against the glare of oncoming headlights, and simply understand the difference between daytime driving and nighttime driving, while being supervised.
Pro Tip: Even a minor fender-bender can be overwhelming for teens. Educate them on what to do if an accident happens like calling 911, staying at the scene, taking pictures of all damage, and not admitting or placing blame. Make sure your teen has the Liberty Mutual app downloaded to their phone as it will let them call a tow truck, file for a claim, and keep track of the accident from their phone.
The Risks: To the surprise of many parents, weekday hours are nearly as dangerous for teen drivers as weekend evenings. Data shows that almost as many 16- and 17-year-old teen drivers played a part in fatal accidents during after-school hours (Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.) as on Friday and Saturday evenings (9 p.m. to 2 a.m.).10 Many are in a hurry to get home or to work after school, which is dangerous combined with inexperience and other roadway/rush hour traffic.
Morning crashes are also far too common, with research suggesting a significant increase in teen crash rates for those students who start school before 8 a.m. This could be because too few teens get the nine hours of sleep per night recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.11
What Parents Can Do: Lead by example: Get plenty of sleep, avoid rushing (even when you're running late), and always practice other safe driving habits. Explain why you're taking these steps, and why your teen should too. Some things are obvious to the experienced driver, but not so clear-cut to a novice.
Having a teen driver is always going to involve risk. It's an unfortunate fact of letting a new driver behind the wheel. The more you know about these dangerous driving times and how you can protect your new driver, the more you can ensure your teen will be safe on the road.