Practice makes perfect. Well, close enough.
Anything less than perfect can be costly when it comes to driving. That is especially true for young, inexperienced drivers. “The 100 Deadliest Days” is an ominous tagline referring to the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen-related crashes sky-rocket. Unfortunately, these crashes usually result in fatalities, if not for the teen driving then for the passengers in the other vehicle. According to Newsday, “Not only are teens themselves more likely to die in car crashes, they also have the highest rates of crash involvement resulting in the deaths of others, including passengers, pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles” (Lightner, 2018).
Most of us remember the experience of learning to drive. There’s the parallel parking, how to go backwards in a straight line, follow the speed limit, red means stop, yellow does not mean speed up, and so on. But teens don’t really get training on how to deal with “real-life” or unexpected situations. If you come across road construction, how do you proceed? If you start to hydroplane, or hit a patch of ice and lose control of the vehicle, how do you regain control? If there’s an obstruction in the road, how do you safely navigate around it? There’s a lot of emphasis placed on following the rules and it’s easy to forget that life doesn’t always play along. It’s great to talk with teens about hypotheticals to frame situations and to also have them experience scenarios in real life. That happens naturally through driving practice, practice, practice.
In addition to inexperience, driving at night poses a serious risk for teen crashes, accounting for a 22% increase in nighttime crashes involving teen drivers per day during “The 100 Deadliest Days” (Casselano, 2018). Obviously, distracted driving is a large contributor to unsafe driving regardless of age. For teens, cell phone use does cause 12% of crashes but, surprisingly, the largest distraction to teens while driving is actually other passengers in the car, causing 15% of crashes (Lightner, 2018).
Preventing distracted driving from passengers can be addressed a couple ways. Firstly, you can stress the importance to your teen of limiting the amount of passengers in the car at a time. Another angle is to teach your teen how to be a respectful passenger and to not distract whoever is driving. Being a respectful passenger goes for you as well. When you’re in the car with your teen, try to remain calm and not agitate them. Keeping your cool while your teen is driving can be tough, but keep in mind if you freak out, they’ll freak out. Also, limit excessive talking. Maybe now isn’t the best time to have that big talk, it can wait until later. Schedule one-on-one time like lunch to have that hard-hitting talk (bonus: have your teen drive there for extra practice).
In terms of cell phone use, one option is to install an app that snoozes alerts when driving. In a survey conducted by AT&T in 2012 as part of their “It Can Wait” campaign, 89% of teens said they would benefit from an app that prevented them from using their phone while driving. Alarmingly, 41% of teens said they have witnessed their parent interacting with a text or an email while their parent is driving (Creative Safety Publishing | Quality Safety Publications, Guides, Posters and Infographics, 2018).
Believe it or not, your teens pay attention to you more than you think. You may always practice safe-driving habits but bring your A-game when your teen is in the car. Small habits like turning off your cell phone, or putting it on silent and leaving it in an inaccessible area like your pocket or purse can go a long way in setting the tone for driving. Instead of yelling at the guy that cuts you off, take it as a teaching moment for your teen as what the other driver did wrong and how to respond with defensive driving techniques.
We addressed some tips and information here, but we barely scratched the surface. If you’re looking for a deep dive, websites like We Save Lives and The Massachusetts Highway Safety Division are great places to start. They have more information on this topic and safe driving contracts for parents and teens. “The 100 Deadliest Days” is becoming an epidemic but there are actions we can all take to make a difference. If your child is a teen or you know a teen friend or relative, stay involved with their driving. Check in with them to see how things are going and open up the lines of communication. Even if you don’t know someone, simply spreading the word and helping to raise awareness can help get information and resources out there to make an impact. It starts with you; take the wheel with making a difference, it could save a life.
Basch, M. (2018). WTOP | AAA: Memorial Day marks start of 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. [online] Wtop.com. Available at: https://wtop.com/dc-transit/2017/05/s/ [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].
Casselano, J. (2018). AAA: Teen-Driver Involved Crashes Kill 10 People a Day During 100 Deadliest Days | AAA NewsRoom. [online] AAA NewsRoom. Available at: https://newsroom.aaa.com/2018/05/aaa-teen-driver-involved-crashes-kill-10-people-day-100-deadliest-days/ [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].
Creative Safety Publishing | Quality Safety Publications, Guides, Posters and Infographics. (2018). 100 Deadliest Days on the Road - Creative Safety Publishing | Quality Safety Publications, Guides, Posters and Infographics. [online] Available at: https://www.creativesafetypublishing.com/100-deadliest-days-on-the-road/ [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].
Lightner, C. (2018). 100 Deadliest Days of Summer - We Save Lives. [online] We Save Lives. Available at: http://wesavelives.org/100-deadliest-days-summer/ [Accessed 14 Jun. 2018].