The number one killer of teens isn't alcohol, drugs, or even illness. This year alone, thousands of young people will die in car crashes at a rate of six deaths per day. That's the equivalent of about 50 school buses filled with 16- and 17-year-olds dying due to driver error and inexperience.
"Among this age group, death in motor vehicle accidents outstrips suicide, cancer and other types of accidents," said Nichole Morris, a principal researcher at the HumanFIRST Laboratory at the University of Minnesota, in a New York Times article. "Cars have gotten safer, roads have gotten safer, but teens have not."
After a teen goes from supervised to unsupervised driving, they are 30 times more likely to be in a crash, reports the National Safety Council. Driver error is responsible for 75 percent of all crashes (that's 55 percent higher than the rate of teens who get in accidents due to drinking and driving).
The majority of these crashes happen at night, most before midnight, or when the teen has another passenger in the car. And the more passengers, the greater the risk of a crash. For a 16- or 17-year-old, having one other young passenger in the car increases their risk of death by 44 percent. Add in a second young passenger, and that risk doubles. Toss three young kiddos in the backseat, and the risk quadruples.
You might be wondering where cell phones come into play. And while they certainly have a negative effect on a teen's driving (nearly 60 percent of young people admit to texting and driving), having a passenger in the car is still a greater risk.
"Your cellphone isn't encouraging your teen to go 80 in a 50, or 100 in a 70," Morris said to the New York Times.
So, what can you, the parent of a teenage driver, do to help?
- Stay in the car. Studies from the HumanFirst Laboratory show that the more the parent is involved when a teen is learning, the lower their chances are for a crash. "That means asking questions, supervising them, giving them opportunities on different types of roads under different conditions," Morris said to The New York Times. "The mistake parents often make is thinking, 'Finally I don't have to car-pool you everywhere!'" It's especially important to supervise nighttime driving.
- Set a good example. Don't forget to be consistent with what you're telling your kids and your own driving habits. Your child looks to you as a role model.
- Say no to passengers. For the first six months after getting their license, teen drivers shouldn't have any young passengers in the car (and some safety research suggests waiting at least a year). Keep in mind, your kid doesn't have to be the driver to be involved in a teen auto accident. This means monitoring whose car your kid is riding shotgun in. Knowing who is driving your child around, where they're going and at what time can impact your teen's safety.
- Make sure your child is well-rested. In 2016, drowsy driving was the cause of 803 deaths, and teen drivers accounted for almost one out of every 10 fatal drowsy driving crashes. Driving while extremely tired affects the driver's alertness, attention, reaction time judgment and decision-making capabilities.
AAA has put together a "StartSmart" Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that has a checklist of unsupervised driving privileges. Print it out, discuss and assign privileges that you're comfortable with, ensuring you're doing everything you can to keep your child safe.
For more information about the Ancira Drive Safe Program, please contact one of our dealerships in San Antonio, Texas.