Health experts look at the numbers and offer teens tips for driving safe

Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage in our society, a clear signal that a teen is moving toward adulthood and independence. There are also few moments in life more memorable for a parent – or filled with more mixed emotions – than handing over the keys to your new teen driver.

Consider these statistics:

Many parents don’t realize it, but the number one threat to their teens’ safety is driving or riding in a car with a teen driver.

More than 2,000 teens lose their lives every year in car crashes. That means that six teens ages 16 to 19 die every day from motor vehicle injuries, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Nearly 250,000 teens are treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes, according to the CDC.

Per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), less than one-fourth of high school students say they always wear their seat belts when another person is driving.

With so many distractions, how do we teach our teens to be safe drivers? Even after getting a license, teens need to continue practicing. Professional driver’s education courses are a great place to start, but there are several things both you and your teen should continue to do.

As an adult/guardian/parent, you play a very important role and should:

Provide lots of in-car “passenger seat” supervision.

Offer your teen gentle, constructive feedback of their

Set realistic goals, expectations and consequences for your teen driver.

Provide a safe car for teens to drive: easy to maneuver, with airbags and good tires.

Make sure your teen knows exactly what to do in the event of an accident.

Set a good example as an adult. If you run red and yellow lights, speed down the highway at 75 mph, weave in and out of traffic, take chances on the road, ride the bumper of the car in front of you, scream at other drivers or exhibit other signs of road rage, you’re showing your teen that the rules don’t count – and this can be fatal.

Teens have responsibilities, too. Sharing these rules with them will help keep them safer on the road:

Always wear your seatbelt when driving or riding in a car

Keep your cell phone off and don’t text. Multiple studies indicate using a cell phone while driving is the equivalent of driving drunk and that texting, on average, causes a loss of focus on the road for 4.6 seconds.

Never drink and drive. Alcohol is involved in nearly 35 percent of adolescent driver fatalities.

Obey the speed limit. Speeding is a major contributor to fatal teen accidents. Driving a safe speed helps ensure your wellbeing.

Minimize distractions. It may be tempting to eat, drink or play loud music while you’re cruising around town; however, all can cause your mind or vision to wander, even for a few seconds.

Drive solo. Having extra passengers in your car can double the risk of causing a car accident.

Practice defensive driving. Always be aware of the traffic ahead, behind and next to you, and have possible escape routes in mind. Stay at least one car length behind the car in front of you in slower speeds, and maintain a larger buffer zone with faster speeds.

For an extra layer of protection for both adults and teens, consider these tips:

Car emergency kits should be inside every vehicle. They should include cable ties, a flashlight, batteries, road flares, a lighter, duct tape, a bungee cord, gloves, a screwdriver and a road safety guide. You should keep a tire gauge and spare tire in your car, as well as a jack and a lug wrench that fit your car.

Turn on your headlights. Using your headlights increases your visibility and helps other drivers see you, even when you feel like it’s light out.

It is a good idea to keep a basic first aid kit in your car.

Having a contract with your teen driving will also help to encourage safe driving and behavior. Consider downloading a new driver parent/teen driving agreement at

There’s no substitute for driving experience and the wisdom that age brings, but by applying the above tips, the odds of becoming a teenage driver accident statistic decrease.

Courtesy of PeaceHealth Medical Group Pediatrics.

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