Teaching teens about the dangers of underage driving is crucial to promoting responsible behavior on the road. Far too often, teens fail to understand the magnitude of making reckless decisions like driving without a license until it’s too late – a mistake that can result in serious accidents and even wrongful death.
This week, a recent underage teen driver made headlines when a San Diego man was killed as the 15-year-old driver backed into oncoming traffic on Sea World Drive. Investigators said the boy was driving an SUV with four teenage passengers inside – several of whom may have been under the influence of alcohol. The boy’s mother claimed to be unaware that her son was out driving, and refused to tell police whether or not the young man had a learners’ permit.
Distracted driving endangers lives
Driving without a permit or license is always dangerous and against the law; yet underage driving was only one of the many potential hazards present at the time of Thursday’s tragic accident. According to a recent study, reckless and distracted driving is the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, claiming 3,500 teen lives in 2009.
What constitutes distracted driving? Aside from cell phone use, carrying passengers is one of the leading contributors to distracted driving accidents among teen drivers nationwide. Alcohol use – another possible factor in the Sea World crash – also compromises safety for inexperienced drivers.
Such accidents often result from a failure to properly educate teens on safe driving habits – a responsibility that falls largely upon parents. Simply establishing driving rules and setting good examples on the road can instill good driving habits in our youth and help prevent deadly accidents.
Teen drivers: tips for a successful first start to driving
Parents can create a safe environment for their teen by enforcing a few simple rules that will help minimize the risk of teenage car accidents. Before your teen hits the road, sit down together and discuss these ground rules that will help keep them safe.
- Don’t allow your teen to drive after dark, especially on the freeway.
- Set a strict limit on the number of friends that your teen can have in the vehicle – the risk of a fatal crash increases by five times when driving with two or more passengers in the car.
- Enforce a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to texting and driving, and ban cell phone use while driving.
- Don’t allow your teen to text or talk on the phone behind the wheel.
- Require your teen to wear his or her seat belt at all times while driving.
- Educate your teen on the dangers of drunk driving (in addition to underage drinking), and give them the option of calling you if they are too impaired to drive.
- Set a good example behind the wheel
It’s important for young adults to have positive role models, especially when it comes to driving. Teens are far more likely to practice good driving habits if their parents exhibit safe and courteous behaviors behind the wheel, so remember these tips the next time you drive with your teen:
- Don’t be an aggressive driver – honking, weaving in and out of traffic and yelling are dangerous behaviors that should not be passed along to teens.
- Obey the speed limit and observe road signs.
- Eliminate dangerous distractions such as loud music and cell phone use, and avoid driving with more than 2 passengers whenever possible.
Even the safest drivers can be involved in accidents that are beyond their control. If you have been hit and injured by a teen driver, a personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Michael Pines, APC, can evaluate your case free of charge. Call us at 1-800-655-6585 or contact us online.
For more information teen driver safety, visit www.ImpactTeenDrivers.org/.