This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week. It’s a week meant to raise awareness and serve as a reminder to teens and parents about the importance of safe driving and having conversations about what that really means.
You might think to yourself, “Yeah, I know. It’s important to be a safe driver. I get it.”
But here’s the thing, if everyone really “got it”, then there wouldn’t be tragic stories like this one about a Bucks County teenager who died in a car crash while going up to the Poconos after his high school prom this past May. That’s right - a teen right here in our area this year.
Folks, car crashes in the stories like this one are almost always preventable. They are not “accidents”. Safe driving skills really do save lives. So, until we see the number of teens (and people of all ages, really) dying in car crashes get down to zero, it’s critical that you pay attention not just to this week, but to all the information about safe driving.
Here’s a recap of some of the statistics from the Department of Transportation:
Car crashes are still the leading cause of death for teens (15-18 years old) in the United States (Read that again - leading cause of death)
In 2019, there were 2,042 people killed in crashes involving a teen driver, of which 628 deaths were the teen driver.
Parents can be the biggest influencers on teens' choices behind the wheel if they take the time to talk with their teens about some of the biggest driving risks.
To all the parents reading this, please do not underestimate your influence on your teens. No matter if they pretend not to listen or if they shrug you off, don’t shy away from the reminders about safe habits such as always buckle up, no drinking, don’t drive tired, keep the phone away, and limiting passengers.
Why It Matters This Year More Than Ever
This year is an especially important year to instill and review safe driving habits with teens. For one, with a resurgence of schools and activities after last year’s quarantines, there are more teens back on the road driving, but they’ve had less experience over the past year because of all the canceled activities.
Secondly, depending on what state you do live in, there might be teens with Driver’s Licenses who never had to take and pass a road test. During the beginning of the pandemic, some states, such as Georgia, decided to waive the road test for teens who have had their permit for 1 year, had a clean driving record, and whose parents were willing to sign a form saying they were ready. I can’t even begin to explain how irresponsible of a decision this was. It stacked the odds even more so against new teen drivers.
Another consequence of the COVID pandemic was an increase in anxiety and depression among teens. Managing symptoms of anxiety and depression can be challenging in normal situations, but managing them in a stressful situation, such as learning how to drive or being a new driver, can be even more difficult. Parents need to be aware of their teens and their mental health because that could influence their driving.
Finally, as I’ve written about before, the technology in vehicles is really cool, but it’s also posing a greater risk to new drivers. If new drivers become dependent on the technologies to inform them of a potential hazard, such as with lane assist, they will not develop the safe habits they need, such as checking their blind spots. This becomes problematic if the technology gets turned off for some reason in the car, or perhaps they get a car of their own that’s slightly older and doesn’t have all those gadgets and gizmos, or maybe they drive someone else’s car or rent one. They won’t be in the habit of doing the things that make them a safe driver - and that creates more risk out there on the road.
It doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. We can all work toward a better tomorrow with fewer and fewer car crash fatalities. Isn’t that a world you want to live in? I know I do. It’s why I do what I do every day.
Parents - talk to your teens and model the safe habits you want them to follow.
Teens - remember what you’ve learned and don’t succumb to peer pressure but rather be the positive influence so that everyone gets home safe and sound to live another day.