It’s a rite of passage for teens, getting that first driver’s license. But getting behind the wheel also puts these young drivers at great risk.
Teens are far more likely to die in a fatal car accident than are older drivers. The reasons are many — teens are less experienced, they’re easily distracted, they take more risks when behind the wheel — but the trend is very real. As a parent, it’s your job to do all that you can to lower the risks that your teen driver will become a fatality.
The sobering numbers
The numbers surrounding teen driving and fatalities are grim. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute reports that a total of 2,715 teens died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015. This number does represent a significant drop of 69 percent from 1975. But it is also 3 percent higher than were it stood just one year earlier.
The risk of death is not equal for all teen drivers. The Insurance Institute reported, too, that two out of every three teen drivers who were killed in crashes in 2015 were male.
The institute found that teen drivers account for a disproportionate amount of motor vehicle fatalities. In 2015, teen drivers accounted for 7 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths, the institute reported. They also made up 10 percent of all passenger deaths in the same year.
The National Center for Health Statistics adds the sobering fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16- to 20-year-olds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added that in 2014, 221,313 16- to 19-year-olds were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents.
This has become an expensive problem, too. The Centers for Disease Control also said that in 2013 teens from the ages of 15 to 19 accounted for $10 billion of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.
What to do?
The Centers for Disease Control says that parents are the key to reducing teen crash fatalities. As the centers says, teens are most likely to get into a crash during the first year they have their licenses. It’s important, then, that parents take steps then to help their teens improve their driving skills.
The centers recommends that parents provide at least 30 to 50 ours of supervised driving practice during a six-month period for their young drivers. Parents should also teach their children how to practice driving on a variety of roads at different times of the day and evening and in a variety of weather and traffic conditions.
The risk of accidents increases dramatically for young drivers when they are driving with other teens in the car. That’s why it’s so important for parents to make sure that their teen drivers are following the Graduated Driver Licenses requirements in their states. These requirements limit not only how late into the evening teens can drive but how many teen passengers — if any — they can have in their vehicles with them after they first get their driver’s licenses.
For instance, Tennessee’s Graduated Driver License Program features three distinct licensing phases for drivers under 18.
First, drivers must get a Learner Permit, which they can obtain once they turn 15. They will also have to pass Tennessee’s Class D knowledge exam and, if under the age of 18, have their parents or legal guardians sign on their behalf.
Once teens turn 16 and have had a valid Learner Permit for at least 180 days, they can apply for the Tennessee Restricted Intermediate Driver License. They must also have at least 50 hours of driving experience — including 10 of night driving — and pass a road skills test.
Teens can then graduate to Unrestricted Intermediate Driver License. To qualify for this license, teens must be at least 17 and must have held their restricted license for at least one year.
Parents who teach their children about road safety and make them follow their state’s teen-driving rules go a long way to boosting the odds that their young drivers won’t be involved in a serious car accident.