In reviewing some literature of late, I came across a few articles concerning teaching teens to be safe drivers. The information was to be used as part of National Teen Driver’s Safety Week which is generally the third week of October. After reading the article I felt compelled to write about it now, six months before Safety Week. Considering all of the high school activities in spring it seems more appropriate to address the issue now as opposed to next fall.
I learned that 8 American teens die from injuries in motor vehicles every day. That is almost 3,000 deaths per year. If a drug were causing this many deaths every drug company in the world would be researching and developing a “cure”.
In 2009, 3,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 died from motor vehicle crash injuries. Of course, this does not even take into account the number of teens injured in motor vehicle crashes.
We, as responsible adults, have an obligation to help our teenagers stay safe while driving cars. Not only do we owe it to the teenagers but we also owe it to the people that they injure. Unfortunately, research has demonstrated that you cannot scare teenagers into making smart choices. This is true even though insurance companies have demonstrated over the years that people under the age of 25, especially males, have the most auto accidents. It is no wonder that insurance rates don’t start dropping until after age 25.
There is no easy answer as to how to get the message across especially considering that a teenager’s ability to exercise sound judgment is less developed than an older driver’s ability because frontal lobe development lags behind all other types of maturation. There is one reason why teenagers don’t seem to hear us! Medical evidence shows that the last part of the brain to develop is the frontal lobe which is the area of the brain where functions like sound judgment are controlled. Although teens work, drive cars, vote and go to war, their judgment remains immature. Simple statistics may be the best way to help get the message across. Ask your teenager why a car with 5 passengers is more dangerous than a car with 1? I suspect there will be little, if any, response although statistics show that the risk of an accident is multiplied by every additional passenger in the vehicle. It is for that reason that many states limit the number of passengers in a car driven by a new driver as well as limit how late they can drive at night.
Of course, in addition to increasing the likelihood of an accident by the number of passengers, cell phones are another serious cause for concern. Ask your teenager if they know that their eyes are off the road 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds when they text and drive. This means that for every minute of driving while texting their eyes are on the road approximately 14 seconds. Even a teenager must admit that driving with their eyes closed for 47 seconds every minute is leaving too much to chance.
Of course, alcohol is still a major concern. There will be times when your children make mistakes. As parents, consider adopting a “free ride home” or, as I call it in my house, “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This means that when your teenager makes a bad choice they can call you without judgment or penalty, admit they have made some mistakes that evening, ask for and get a ride home without being disciplined. This can be tough; however, your teenager needs to know that they can count on you without judgment or penalty if they make a mistake. The other option is not getting a call home leaving your teenager to the mercy of another friend who may be in even worse condition than your teenager or, worse, having your teenager drive while drunk.
Finally, put in the effort of asking important questions every time your teenager is about to leave the house. Statistics show that teenagers have a lower injury rate from car wrecks when their parents asked the tough questions. Ignoring it will not make it go away but asking some of the questions below can help:
- Where are you going?
- Who is driving?
- How many are going to be in the car?
- Will you be drinking?
- Will the driver be drinking?
- What precautions for a designated driver have been taken?
- Where are you going to be stopping?
- When will you be home?
- You do know you can call if you make a mistake?
A parent’s worst nightmare is the late night call about an arrest or injury of a child. Following these tips and having discussions may prevent you and your family from receiving that call. Although a difficult topic ignoring it is not the answer.
I have been representing injured victims from accidents due to the negligence of others for 27 years. I know what it takes to work with insurance companies for a successful recovery and am prepared to try the case if necessary. We represent injured victims on a contingency fee basis which means you pay nothing if there is no recovery. We hope that you or a loved one are never injured in an accident. Unfortunately, we know that statistics show that it can and will happen. If you or a loved one are injured in an accident by the negligence of another, please contact me for a free, no cost, no obligation consultation to discuss your rights. Do your best to prevent teenager’s injuries but if injuries do happen, explore your legal rights to recover money damages.