When your teenage child starts to drive, it can be both liberating and terrifying. On one hand, you’re finally freed from the never-ending rides to school, sports practices, and friends’ houses. On the other hand, you may be concerned about reckless or distracted driving, and the potential for motor vehicle accidents.
If you are the parent of a teenage driver, you are right to be concerned for their safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “as a category of accidents, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death to teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths”.
Fortunately, there is good news. Although the statistics around teenage driving accidents are sobering, most fatalities are easily preventable, provided you and your child are educated in proper safety and accident prevention techniques. Moreover, if your child is injured in an accident caused by another driver, a personal injury attorney may be able to earn you compensation for his or her injuries. Read on for more information about teen auto accidents and how you can protect your young driver.
Know the facts
- When teens drive with friends in the vehicle, their risk of a fatal accident doubles. For this reason, new teen drivers should drive alone or only with responsible adult passengers for at least the first six months behind the wheel.
- Teach your teen driver the dangers of distracted driving. When behind the wheel, teens should put their cell phone and other electronic devices in the glovebox. They should also utilize a new feature on most phones and devices that prevent incoming notifications while the user is driving. This can be very helpful, as message alert sounds can be very difficult to ignore, especially for teens. Studies show that more than 32 percent of U.S. high school students admit to texting while driving, and more than half of those surveyed admit to talking on cell phones when behind the wheel.
- New drivers should avoid driving at night and during inclement weather conditions for a minimum of six months.
- Teach your teen driver to always wear a seatbelt and to never speed. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 48 percent of the 37,461 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 were not wearing seat belts.
Drinking and driving
The most important safety advice you can offer your child is to abstain from drinking and driving, or riding in a car with an impaired driver. A 2017 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 16.5 percent of high school students had been in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. Additional data from the CDC show that the majority of fatal car accidents for teenage drivers take place in between 3 p.m. and midnight on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, when people are more likely to have been drinking.
Establishing healthy communication between family members and setting clear rules for children are two strategies that research suggests can help to prevent teenage drinking. Let your child know that you would rather drive them home yourself than have them leave a party with an impaired driver.
While the risks to your child’s health and safety are the most important considerations, there are also severe legal consequences for teenagers who drink and drive that you and your child should be aware of. “The immediate legal consequences of underage drinking are immense,” writes the Law Office of Martin T. Montilino. “Teens can face up to one year in jail and a fine up to $5000 for a first offense alone. A DWI can stay on a person’s driving record for up to 15 years, affecting everything from traveling abroad to getting car insurance.”
The laws will vary by state, but a drunk driving charge is serious no matter where you live. Should your child be facing legal consequences for drinking and driving, an attorney who specializes in these cases can help to reduce the charge or its sentence.
Teen driving statistics are scary, yes. But with proper education and good role models, teens can be just as safe on the road as their adult counterparts. Familiarizing yourself with these safety strategies and maintaining an open line of communication with your child as they begin to travel on the road will give both of you the confidence and security you need.
In the event that your child is injured in a motor vehicle accident that was beyond his or her control, a skilled car accident attorney can help you recover damages.