Raise Awareness of Four Risky Teen Driving Behaviors

September 19, 2013
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Share your National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW) campaign ideas with others via Twitter @safetymd #teendriving2013 or Facebook. Tips and actionable recommendations are also welcome. 

Research shows that while a teen is learning to drive and during the first year of independent driving, it takes a parent and teen working together to develop a skilled safe driver. This year’s theme for National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 20-26), ‘It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving,' drives home this all important connection. It’s crucial to set clear expectations for each other, and it’s also important to keep the lines of communication open. According to CIRP@CHOP research, teens who said their parents set rules and monitor their whereabouts in a helpful, supportive way were half as likely to be in a crash in the prior year and 71 percent less likely to drive intoxicated compared with teens who described their parents as less involved.

As a traffic injury researcher and parent of three teens, I encourage you to use the ‘It Takes Two’ theme to raise awareness of four risky driving behaviors during NTDSW and throughout the year with parents and teens and help them to set rules and expectations around these behaviors as a driver and as a passenger:

  • Speeding – Driving in excess of the speed limit or too fast for road conditions was a factor in more than half of fatal teen crashes with a teen behind the wheel.
  • Impaired driving – 41 percent of teen drivers who died in crashes had a blood alcohol level  ≥ 0.01 and nearly a quarter of teen passengers admit to riding with someone who had been drinking.
  • Distracted Driving -- A third of teens admit to texting or emailing while driving (in the prior month), a proven deadly distraction for all drivers and especially teen drivers.
  • Not Wearing a Seat Belt -- Teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use of any age group. Many deaths and injuries to teens in crashes could have been prevented just by buckling up.

We can help by reinforcing the parent-teen connection in our evidence-based programs and interventions. Towards this, parents may appreciate a few insights on communicating driving safety rules and expectations with their teens:

  • When setting rules, teens want to hear the reasons for the rules-- that they are in place to keep them safe, not to control their lives.
  • Listen and be responsive to your teens’ concerns, which are often quite practical.
  • Teens are at a developmental stage where they crave independence. You can reward responsible behavior with increased privileges.
  • Be the scapegoat for your teen’s safety-oriented choices.

Around this time last year, my son, Jack, declined a ride home from a newly-licensed upperclassman, using me as the reason: “Thanks, but my Dad is already on his way to pick me up.” He then called and asked me to come get him. We had previously discussed various scenarios that could lead to an unsafe situation and, when the time came, Jack felt comfortable acting on it. Encourage parents and teens to have similar discussions.

The website teendriversource.org provides evidence-based recommendations for critical skills to practice during supervised drives, the best rules for families to establish for safety’s sake, and the proper driving behaviors that parents should model. Look for specific ways to help parents model safe driving behaviors and monitor their teens’ driving in a future blog post.