Submitted by Kanoski Bresney Law Firm
Earning a driver’s license has long been a rite of passage for teens—a huge step toward more freedom and independence. However, for parents, the prospect of their child having control of a 2000-pound moving hunk of metal is likely to cause sleepless nights, anxiety, stress, and even a bit of fear. Parents have good reason to be concerned as the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16–19 than any other age group. Furthermore, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.
Also worth noting is that more car accidents occur during the summer months than at any other time of the year. This is due to the fact that there are simply more cars on the road; there is lots of construction; there are more bicycles and motorcycles on the roads; and there are more teens driving for longer times in the summer than during the school year.
The good news is that teen motor crashes are preventable and there are effective strategies that can improve safety for teen drivers. One of the most important safety features for your teen driver is….YOU! Be aware of the following risk factors and you’ll be better prepared to hand over the keys.
Inexperience: Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate or not be able to recognize dangerous situations. Teens are also more likely than adults to make critical decision errors that can lead to serious crashes. It’s no surprise that teens tend to overestimate their abilities and underestimate the dangers of the road.
Distracted Driving: Distraction negatively affects driving performance for all drivers but can be especially dangerous for young, inexperienced drivers. Teens need to be 100 percent focused on driving—so that means no phones or texting, and not doing anything else—like eating, drinking, or fixing hair. Parents should set phones to block all notifications before even getting in the car.
Speeding: Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and misjudge the distance between their car and the car in front of them. More speed means less time to react. About one-third of all fatal teen-driver crashes involved speeding. Make sure that your teen knows that the rule is to obey the posted speed limit at all times.
Alcohol Use: Drinking any amount of alcohol before driving increases crash risk among teen drivers as compared with older drivers. Teen drivers have a much higher risk for being involved in a crash than older drivers at the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC), even at BAC levels below the legal limit for adults. Set a zero-tolerance policy for any amount of alcohol.
Not using seatbelts: It’s hard to believe that there is anyone that doesn’t wear a seatbelt. But there are numerous statistics proving this to be true. For example, among teen drivers and passengers 16–19 years of age who died in car crashes in 2018, almost half were unrestrained at the time of the crash. And in 2019, 43.1 percent of U.S. high school students did not always wear a seat belt when riding in a car driven by someone else.
Other Passengers: Anyone else in the car increases a teen’s risk for a fatal crash. That’s because other passengers can distract an inexperienced teen driver. Illinois has graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws that restrict night driving and passengers as well as other safety rules. Be sure you know what the GDL laws are and make sure they are followed.
For parents, finding the right balance between giving teens freedom to learn from their mistakes, while also ensuring that a poor choice will not have a life-threatening consequence can be a challenge. Following are some tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help parents guide teens into safe and capable drivers.
- Talk to your teens about safe driving early and often, well before they reach driving age.
- Set firm rules and consequences for breaking the rules. This is not the time to be wishy-washy about enforcing rules. Explain the reason for the rules you have set.
- Consequences for breaking safe driving rules might include suspending your teen’s driving privileges, limiting the hours during which they can drive, or limiting the places where they can drive. Perhaps the ultimate punishment is limiting a teen’s access to their cell phone.
- Be a good role model. Talking is important, but action is even better. Show your kids safe driving behavior—ideally from the time they are born!
- Get it in writing. Consider a parent-teen driving agreement that puts the rules in writing to clearly set expectations and limits.
Hang this by the door or on the fridge. The CDC website has an excellent one on their website. https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/pdf/PATK_2014_TeenParent_Agreement_AAP-a.pdf
You have more influence on your teen than you may think. Be a good example, get involved in their driving habits from the beginning, and stay involved for the duration of their teen years. Hopefully, your teen will never be involved in an accident—especially one that involves an injury. But if this should occur, it’s important to seek out legal advice.
For more information on any type of personal injury or to schedule a free consultation, contact Kanoski Bresney law firm at 888-826-8682. They are the largest personal injury law firm located within central Illinois and they have the resources to handle any type of injury claim anywhere in the state including McLean County, Sangamon County, Adams County, Champaign County, Schuyler County, Peoria County, Macomb, Macon County, Quincy, Bloomington, Tazewell County, Champaign, Decatur, McDonough County, Pekin, Springfield, Peoria, and Rushville. Their experience helps ensure that their clients get the respect, response, and results® they deserve. They will evaluate your case and work to determine what your next steps should be moving forward. Information for this article is from the CDC and NHTSA