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FAQs About Teen Driver Crash Risks

Q: What’s the 3-second rule and why should I care about it?

A: Most crashes happen in about 3 seconds – not a lot of time to recognize and avoid a driving hazard. A car braking quickly in front of you, a child on a bike crossing your path, a truck spraying your windshield with rainwater or slush – they’re all unexpected and potentially dangerous…or even deadly. Experts have figured out what is going on in the mind of an experienced driver who has just identified a potential hazard. Broken down, it goes like this: The driver sees a hazard, identifies it as dangerous, scans his memory to figure out what to do about it, makes a decision to take an action, and then acts to avoid the hazard. All this has to happen in about 3 seconds. So if you are distracted by your phone or friends or are speeding, you might start this crash avoidance sequence too late. If you’ve never had experience with this type of situation, it might take you even longer to figure out what to do.

Q: If my car has air bags, why do I have to wear a seat belt?

A: Air bags are designed to work with a seat belt, not alone. The number one way to reduce your chance of dying or getting injured in a crash is to buckle up. Two-thirds of teens that died in crashes were not wearing a seat belt. Make it a habit. Don’t even put the key in the ignition until the seat belt’s fastened.

Q: Why does my mom insist on driving me to school after I stay up all night studying? Aren’t I okay to drive after downing an energy drink or some coffee?

A:  No, you’re not. Trust your mom on this one. Energy drinks and coffee may give you an energy boost after getting some sleep, but being awake for 18 hours and driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving. Drowsiness reduces your ability to drive safely by making you less alert and attentive, delaying reaction times, and hindering decision-making skills. According to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in five fatal accidents involve a drowsy driver, and drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are the most likely to be involved in these crashes.

Q: I always use a hands-free cell phone while I’m driving. That’s safe, right?

A: Talking or texting on a cell phone while driving is NEVER okay, even with a hands-free device. According to studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), crash risk is four times higher when a driver uses a cell phone, whether or not it’s hands-free. The danger is not from the typing or talking. The distracting conversation or messaging takes your mind off the task of driving.

Q: I just got my driver’s license, but my parents won’t let me drive my friends to school or home from practice. This doesn’t seem fair. Why are they doing this to me?

A: Limiting the number of peer passengers during the first year of independent driving has been found to greatly reduce crash risk. Studies show that just one teen passenger doubles the risk a teen driver will get into a fatal crash; three or more quadruples the risk. Peer passengers can be a major distraction, and anything that takes your focus off the road is dangerous.

Q: My friend’s girlfriend just broke up with him, and he’s really upset. He’s supposed to drive me to a party tonight. Should I let him?

A: Definitely not. When a driver’s emotions are high, his ability to concentrate on the road is reduced. If you have your license and are able to drive with peer passengers, insist on driving. If not, ask your parents for a lift. They will see this as a mature decision and respect you more for it. We do!

Q: I live in a state where I’m not allowed to drive at night until I have a full year of experience. Why?

A:  Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws are a proven strategy to prevent teen driver crashes and deaths. They work by keeping new teen drivers out of high-risk driving situations, such as driving at night, to give them the needed time to develop skills in lower-risk situations, such as driving during the day. The fatal crash rate of 16-year-olds is nearly twice as high at night.

FAQs About Crash Risks
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