teenage girl practices driving with dad
Keeping teens safe behind the wheel in part means parents giving teens lots of practice to help them gain practical knowledge and experience.

Keeping teens safe, especially when they are new drivers can seem a daunting prospect for parents. The statistics tell the story with car crashes the second leading cause of death for teens. In 2019, for example, 2,375 teenagers died due to injuries sustained in car accidents.

teenage girl applying lip gloss distracted driving
Make sure she pulls over before applying that lip gloss. Looking good also means staying alive!

Causes of Teen Car Accidents

The good news is that there are many steps parents can take to help teens stay safe on the road. But first let’s take a look at why so many teens get into trouble behind the wheel. Here are the main factors that lead to teen car accidents:

  • Inexperience—Teens are inexperienced drivers. Time is the best teacher, and becoming a good driver takes years of experience. A teenager may not have the instinct or knowledge to use the defensive driving techniques that might mean the difference between life and death.
  • Errors of Judgment—Teenagers are known for three main driving errors of judgment: they tend to speed, they get distracted, and they often fail to take in their surroundings and the other drivers on the road. In total, these driving behaviors are behind 75 percent of all serious teenage car accidents.
  • Immaturity—Teens lack the driving maturity of adults. Due to their lack of maturity, teens may not understand the potential consequences of poor driving behavior. They think of the excitement of driving fast, for example, rather than the dangers of speeding. Keeping teens safe means teaching them about the dangers of reckless driving behavior.
  • Sleepy Driving—Experienced adult drivers know when they are too tired to drive and need to pull over and have a nap or a cup of coffee before continuing on their way. Teens may not realize how dangerous it is to drive while drowsy, and may not recognize the signs of being too tired to drive. Driving while sleepy can translate to poor driving judgment and can also lead to falling asleep at the wheel. Adequate sleep can go a long way toward keeping teens safe on the road.
  • Impairment—Teens are risk takers by nature and many experiment with drugs and alcohol. Driving impaired is dangerous. Drivers aged 16-20 with blood alcohol levels of 0.05% to 0.079% are 12 times more likelyto die in single-vehicle accidents than their peers who refrain from drinking.
  • Night Driving—Most fatal teen car crashes happen at night. The fatal crash rate for teens aged 16-19 years old is four times higher at night, and three times higher than for adults aged 30-59.
  • Distracted Driving—Teens get distracted when they have passengers. More than half of teen passenger fatalities are due to distracted driving by a teenage driver. This is distinct from adult drivers, who seem to do better at avoiding accidents when they have passengers along for the right. Teenage drivers, on the other hand, are 30 percent more likely to be in a car accident when they have passengers.
Teen driver with passengers
Teen drivers with passengers are 30 percent more likely to have a car accident.

Keeping Teens Safe—What Parents Can Do

As a parent, there are many things you can do to help support your teen driver. Taking the time to advise and train your child as he or she drives is invaluable practice that can improve your child’s driving skills. The more you take your child out for driving practice, the more experience your teenager will gain in his or her practical driving knowledge base.

Parents may be good sports about taking the time to accompany their teenagers as they drive during the day, but may not think about taking their teens out for night driving experience. It’s important for teens to get used to driving at night. Teens can only learn how to drive at night by practicing with a responsible adult alongside them. Keeping teens safe means teaching them how to drive at night.

Night driving teen distracted by phone
Double whammy: not only are teens not so good at night driving, but this one is looking at his phone. Keeping teens safe may mean taking away their driving privileges unless they promise to put those phones away.

A parent can also remind teens about wearing a seatbelt every time they drive, even when going short distances. Seatbelts go a long way toward keeping teens safe. It wouldn’t hurt to impose some sort of limit on the number of passengers in the car when teens go out on the road. Finally, make sure your teen gets adequate sleep before going out for a drive. Driving while drowsy just won’t do.



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