AAA provides guidelines to parents of teen drivers
- Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death for 16-24 year olds at 48.5%.
- Of those (teens) involved in crashes in 2000, 58% were speeding at the time of the crash.
- 65% of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving.
- Nearly half of the fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers were single vehicle crashes.
- In the last decade, over 68,000 teens have died in car crashes.
In the aftermath of traffic crashes that have claimed the lives of teenagers, their passengers and other motorists, the AAA Clubs of New Jersey remind parents of new drivers that teenagers have the highest collision rate of any age group and teenagers who have driven a year or less have the worst crash rates.
According to a press release, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that pedestrians, passengers and occupants of other cars account for nearly two out of three fatalities in teen crashes.
The AAA offers parents the following tips to help reduce the risks:
- Size up your teen's maturity. In assessing your teen's readiness to drive, the ability to make good decisions counts more than age. Academic performance can serve as a good yardstick, but socialization is an even better indicator. Ex-perts point out that social skills have a direct correlation to the psychomotor skills required behind the wheel. That's because driving is a social activity - you need to know the rules, respect others' rights and control your temper to stay out of trouble on the road as well as in life.
- Drive the way you expect your child to drive. According to a recent study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teens involved in crashes are much more likely than crash-free teens to have parents with bad driving records, as measured by the number of tickets and collisions. This means that a teen's driving behavior is a reflection of his parents' driving behavior regardless of the parents' educational level or socioeconomic status.
- Practice, practice, practice. Become your teen's practice coach; schedule regular over-the-road sessions, know the specific skills and techniques covered in your child's driver ed curriculum, reinforce them during practice (correcting mistakes calmly), and provide plenty of praise when your teen does well.
- Just say no to peer passengers and night driving. Statistics overwhelmingly identify the two biggest risk factors for teens as driving at night and having other teens as passengers. The more passengers, the higher the risk.
- Limit other distractions. Cell phones, CDs, iPods, fast food, mascara, etc. Parents can model safe behavior by avoid-ing such distractions themselves. Insist that your teen not eat, use a phone, root around for CDs or scroll through iPod playlists while the vehicle is moving.
- Set clear consequences and stick to them. Just as traffic law violations earn tickets and other penalties, violations of family driving rules should bring consequences, too. Depending on the offense, they might run from doing extra chores around the house to reducing the number of driving hours per week. But don't forget to reward good behavior, too.
- Put everything in writing. You and your teen should agree upon the conditions and restrictions for driving privileges (and the consequences for violating them) and write them down. The agreement should cover seat belt use, no alcohol and drugs, obeying the law as well as his responsibilities to maintain the vehicle and pay for driving expenses. A writ-ten contract hammers home the point that driving is serious business. AAA offers a free brochure, Driving Contracts, that offers specific guidance and sample provisions for a parent-teen agreement.
- Schedule Sunday summits. According to the AAA Foundation study, parental communication ranks as one of the most important traits separating crash-free teens from crash-prone ones. Consider holding regular "Sunday summits" around the kitchen table to review your teen's driving performance and dole out rewards and implement consequences.
- Let your teen use the safest car. The least experienced driver should use the safest car, but often the family's oldest car becomes the hand-me-down teenmobile, even though it may not be the wisest choice. Size matters in a collision, and large sedans make up in crashworthiness what they lack in cool.