Every year in October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hosts ‘National Teen Driver Safety Week’ to raise awareness for the fact that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for 15 – 19-year olds in the US. In 2013, over 2,600 teen drivers lost their lives in a motor vehicle crash, and an estimated 130,000 were injured.
The “5 to Drive” are the necessary safety rules that address the five biggest dangers teens face when operating a vehicle: Texting – Speeding – Seat Belts – Alcohol and Passengers.
Even though it’s hard to believe that your teen is actually listening to what you have to say (let alone follow what you say when you aren’t there), talking about the safety rules is the most important thing you can do as a parent!
That’s why we encourage you to be persistent, and give ‘the talk’ every time they head out! Join parents across the country in the “5 to Drive” campaign. Here are your talking points:
1. No Drinking and Driving.
Despite the fact that the possession or the consumption of alcohol before the age of 21 is illegal, almost one in five teen driver crashes involves alcohol. Remind your teen that alcohol and driving should never mix – no matter your age.
2. Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. Front Seat and Back.
Studies show that teens aren’t buckling up. In 64% of fatal crashes, teen drivers’ passengers weren’t buckled. If the teen driver himself wasn’t buckled, the percentage of unrestrained passengers jumped to 90 percent! Remind your teen that it’s important to buckle up on every trip, no matter how far or how fast.
3. Put the Phone Down. One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.
Remind your teen about the dangers of texting or dialing while driving, and that the phone is off-limits when they are on the road. (That said, remind them that any distraction – including eating, applying make-up, or changing the music – can have deadly consequences.)
4. Stop Speeding Before It Stops You.
Drive the speed limit and require your teen to do the same. Explain that every time your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples.
5. No More Than One Passenger at Any Time.
Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up with in direct relation to the number of teens in a car: More passengers equal more distractions and increased peer pressure. That’s why many states have adopted a restricted passenger law for teen drivers. Washington State Teen Driving Law states:
- For the first six months, no passengers under age 20, except for family members;
- For the second six months, no more than three passengers under age 20.
Start the conversation now, and more importantly: Keep the conversation going!
Don’t be afraid to get creative – leave sticky notes, sing a song, write a letter or even use social media to get your message across. They might roll their eyes – but they’ll get your message.
Having a little fun is good and well, but remind your teen that driving is a privilege, not a right, and should be taken seriously. A signed parent-teen driver contract can be a great tool to create accountability and outline the rules and consequences.
Last but not least: Be a good example. The old rule of “Do as I say, not as I do” does not apply here — your teen’s life depends on it. Show consistency by observing the rules you set: Put away the phone, obey the speed limit, don’t drink and drive and buckle up.