FAQs About Teen Driver Safety
Q: How can I convince my teen to lower the music and not use a cell phone for talking or texting while driving?
A: When you sit down to talk to your teen about setting house rules, bring up the three-second sequence. Explain to your teen that within a one-second window a driver scans for hazards then has 2 seconds to detect it and decide how to respond in order to avoid or lessen the severity of a crash. Tell your teen that crash risk is four times higher when a driver uses a cell phone, whether or not it's hands-free. Such distractions can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road long enough to have difficulty responding to hazards and staying in their lane.
Q: My teen is often up late studying for a test. How can I let her drive when she barely had two hours of sleep?
A: For the safety of your child, you shouldn't let her drive to school the next morning. Offer her a ride instead. Teen drivers who sleep less than eight hours nightly are one-third more likely to crash than those who sleep 8 or more hours each night. Lack of sleep also reduces their ability to process information, sustain attention, have accurate motor control, and react normally. All are crucial driving skills.
Q: Is it okay for my teen to give rides to friends or siblings or to receive rides from friends or siblings?
A: Understand the three biggest factors contributing to older child passenger fatalities are: riding with a driver age 16 or younger, not wearing seat belts, and traveling on high speed roads. However, the risk of crash injury to children riding with teen drivers is 40 percent lower if a sibling is driving. As a parent, you have to make a judgment call about with whom your child may ride. As far as teens giving rides to friends, two or more peer passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash with a teen at the wheel. When setting house rules, enforce a temporary limit on passengers. This has been found to reduce crash risk. The limit can be gradually lifted after the first 6 to 12 months of independent driving.
Q: I always have to remind my teen to buckle up when he's my passenger. I am worried no one will remind him when he rides with friends.
A: It's true. Teens have the lowest seat belt use of any age group, and the consequences are deadly. in 2009 the majority of teens and young adults ages 16 to 20 that died in crashes were not wearing their seat belt. Some common teen responses for not wearing seat belts are: discomfort; short trip; forgetfulness; lack of understanding about their importance in a crash; and not being "cool." Address those concerns. Tell your teen that most crashes happen close to home, so everyone in the car should ALWAYS have a seat belt on. Make it a habit.
Q: I know my teen is a good driver, but sometimes I worry when she doesn't come home until late at night.
A: For the first year of licensure when crash risk is highest, set a curfew for your teen. The fatal crash rate of 16-year-olds is nearly twice as high at night. States with nighttime restrictions in place have reported up to a 60 percent reduction in crashes during the restricted hours. So be sure to include nighttime driving restrictions as a house rule.
Q: Sometimes when my son gets upset, he likes to go out for a ride to clear his mind. Should I discourage this behavior?
A: Yes. Emotions, whether positive or negative, can have a powerful effect on drivers of all ages. This is particularly true of teens who are undergoing dramatic emotional changes. Tell your teen to go out for a walk instead.
Q: My teen is insisting on buying his own car. He is financially responsible but can he handle his own car so soon after licensure?
A: Teens look forward to getting their license because it makes them feel independent. Having to always ask for the keys can seem restricting. That's why many want their own car. However, for safety, it's better to share a car for the first year. Teens with primary access to a vehicle are more than twice as likely to report having been in a crash than those who share a car. Also, teens with primary access are more likely to use a cell phone while driving and to speed – two known factors that make crashes more likely.