1 in 2 teenagers will be in a reportable accident the first year they hold their driving license. We are not talking about backing into a tree or hitting the side of the garage or running over the curb. We are talking about accidents where one must call 911 and report the accident because there has been serious damage to a vehicle or vehicles and/or there are injuries that occurred. I do not like these odds and have a few things you can do as a parent to help reduce these odds.
The first thing I recommend is a strict adherence to no tailgating. Years and years ago we were taught to keep one car length behind the car ahead of us for every ten miles per hour that we are traveling. Current studies have shown that this distance is too short for the higher speeds plus the fact that most teenagers cannot accurately estimate a car’s length while traveling down the roadway.
A two-second following distance is the norm today. But why settle on two seconds? Insist that your teen stays four, five, six, or more seconds behind the car ahead of them. The number one accident between two cars is not a head-on collision, it is not a side collision, it is a rear collision. Logically, how dumb is that? You are hitting the car ahead of you, the one going the same direction you are going, the one you can see! If you can eliminate the rear-end collision, you have improved the odds to about one in four from the one in two previously stated.
Always Wear a Seatbelt
The second thing I recommend is a strict requirement that all persons in the car your teen is driving, wear a seatbelt. There are days in the history of the United States when no one who was wearing a seatbelt died in a traffic accident. There has never been a day where no one died that was not wearing a seat belt.
Teens who do not wear seat belts are risk-takers. Of course, they die more often than those wearing seat belts but much of the reason is that they just don’t drive with the same degree of caution as a seat belt wearer. I would make this a no-second-chance issue. “I see or hear of you or anyone in your car without a seatbelt on and the car is moving, you will not drive again for a month.”
Stick to the Speed Limit
The third thing I would recommend is teaching your teen that speeding, even a little over the posted speed limit, is another absolute no-no. Show your teens the places where police tend to set up their radars. I know that if I have seen a policeman sitting somewhere checking speed, I will see him or someone else again at the same location. Make sure your teen knows the speed limit for every street he or she drives on frequently. Ask them often before they get their license what the speed limit currently is. Teach them to look for speed limit signs when they turn onto a new street.
Be Aware of Increased Danger Areas
My last recommendation is to teach your teen where the most dangerous place to drive is for teens. It’s not the city or the freeway as many people would think. It is the country roads that are statistically the most dangerous place for teenagers to drive.
Every year, around 5,000 teenagers die on country roads in one-car collisions. In a one-car collision, no other car has anything to do with the crash. The teen hits a tree, hits a telephone pole, just flies off the road, hits a driveway on a shoulder, goes over the side of a mountain, rolls over and over on a curve, or ends up in a body of water where some or all of the occupants drown.
When the police investigate these accidents, they almost always say the same thing – the car was speeding, the car was going too fast, or the car was going too fast for the conditions of the road. If they are in a car that is speeding in the country, a red flag should go off in the student’s head that this is one of the most dangerous things they can do. Yes, they are less likely to get a speeding ticket out in the country but they are more likely to die!