Monday, October 19, 2009

Sue Scheff: New Teen Drivers

When your teen becomes of age to get their driving permit, then their license, it can be one of the most stressful times of parenting. Recently I read a book that is a wealth of information and helps you prepare your teen for the major responsibility called – driving. Crash-Proof Your Kids by Timothy C. Smith is a must read “before” your teen gets behind the wheel.

This past week Connect with Kids also posted an article with parenting tips and revealing studies regarding teenage drivers. Be an educated parent, you will have a safer teenage.

Source: Connect with Kids

Keeping New Drivers Safe

“States with a restricted graduated driver’s license program are reducing the teen crashes by 21 percent. That is huge. That represents thousands of teenage lives that we are saving, and tens of thousands of serious injuries that we are preventing.”

– Robert J. Wilson, National Safety Council

Teenagers who own their own car are two and a half times more likely to get into a car accident than kids who share a car with their mom or dad. Those are the results of a new study funded by the State Farm Insurance Company. How else can you keep your new driver safe behind the wheel?

Last year, 19-year-old Rafael was arrested for street racing.

“You know, I opened the window,” says Rafael, “I see the cop next to me and he says, ‘Please get out of the car, you’re under arrest.’ And I said, ‘Oh, no man, I’m sorry, you know, I’m sorry.’ Cause I wasn’t thinking! “

He was sentenced to community service and three months of driving restrictions. “I was only allowed to drive from school, community service, and work,” says Rafael. “That was about it. Anywhere else I went, and the cops saw me, I would have been in big trouble.”

47 states have similar restrictions like this on all new drivers. Many 16-year-olds can only drive to school, can’t drive with passengers, or not past 10 o’clock at night.

“States with a restricted graduated driver’s license program are reducing the teen crashes by 21 percent,” says Robert Wilson, with the National Safety Council. “That is huge. That represents thousands of teenage lives that we are saving, and tens of thousands of serious injuries that we are preventing.”

Experts say parents should restrict new drivers when the state doesn’t.

They advise to delay driving until age 17, have teens get 30 hours of practice behind the wheel, and keep a learner’s permit for three months before applying for a license.

“A lot of the restrictions can be eased gradually,” says Wilson. “It’s not an all or none situation. So I would say a beginning driver shouldn’t drive at all at night at first unsupervised, and then gradually extend the time-nine o’clock, ten o’clock, midnight.”

As for Rafael, the arrest taught him a lesson.

“That night we were going really fast,” says Rafael, “I could have died, seriously, at the speed I was going.”

Research shows the states that put at least five restrictions on new drivers have the lowest teen crash rates.

Driving is a risky proposition for many American teenagers. Despite spending less time driving than all other age groups (except the elderly), teenage drivers have disproportionately high rates of crashes and fatalities. Experts say that the high accident rates for teens are caused by a combination of factors, most notably teenagers’ immaturity and lack of driving experience. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System collected the following data about teenage drivers:

•Crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 19-year-olds.
•The majority of teenage passenger deaths occur when another teen is driving.
•Two-thirds of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes are male.
•Among teenage drivers, alcohol is a factor in 23 percent of fatal accidents involving males, 10 percent of fatal accidents involving females.
•More than half of the teenage motor vehicle deaths occur on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Of those deaths, 41 percent occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Tips for Parents
The risks involved in letting a teenager get behind the wheel of a car are very real, but there are safety measures parents can take to improve the odds for beginning drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers these tips:

•Don’t rely solely on driver education. High school driving courses may be the most convenient way to teach driving skills, but they don’t produce safer drivers.
•Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teen learn how to drive. Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after your teen graduates from a learner’s permit to a restricted or full license.
•Remember, you are a role model. New drivers learn by example, so you must practice safe driving. Teens with crashes and violations often have parents with poor driving records.
•Restrict night driving. Most nighttime fatal crashes among young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so your teen shouldn’t be driving much later than 9 p.m.
•Restrict passengers. Teenage passengers in a vehicle can distract a new driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking. The best policy is to restrict the number of teenage passengers your teen is allowed to transport.
•Require safety belts. Don’t assume that your teen is using a safety belt when he’s with his friends, just because he uses it when you’re together.
•Research shows that safety belt use is lower among teens than older people. Insist that your teen use a safety belt at all times.
•Prohibit driving after drinking. Make it clear that it is illegal and highly dangerous for a teen to drive after drinking alcohol or using any other drug.
•While alcohol isn’t a factor in most crashes of teenagers, even small amounts of alcohol are impairing for teens.
•Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teens should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash. For example, small cars don’t offer the best protection in a crash. Avoid cars with performance images that might encourage speeding. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles, particularly the smaller ones, which are more prone to roll over.

•Drive Home Safe
•Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
•National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
•Safe America Foundation

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