Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens, with drivers aged 16-19 the most likely to be in a fatal car crash of all drivers.
Teens’ inexperience behind the wheel is a primary reason for these tragic statistics. Another is reckless and distracted driving – unfortunately, exhibited by many drivers but especially problematic for younger drivers.
As parents, educators, and adults in teens’ lives, we have an important role to play in helping reduce these preventable deaths.
Teens & Distracted Driving
Because of their driving inexperience, teens are much more likely to engage in distracted driving – which is any activity that distracts their attention away from driving and the road.
Distractions can be visual, manual, or cognitive. Examples are eating food, fiddling with the stereo, applying make-up, engaging with passengers, or reaching for things in their car. Far and away, the biggest one is cell phones: texting, emailing, watching videos, talking.
What You Can Do
As adults in teens’ lives, we have a great opportunity to lead by example, encourage responsible behaviors, and support teens in developing safe driving habits.
- Parents – As a parent, you may have more influence than you think: Teens who say their parents set rules and gave advice in a supportive, helpful way are 50% less likely to crash. Here are some things you can do:
- Set an example by practicing safe, non-distracted driving every time you get in the car.
- Talk to your teen about the rules of the road, responsibilities of being a licensed driver, and statistics about distracted driving. Look up your state’s penalties for using the phone while driving and inform them that in states with graduated driver licensing, a violation could mean a suspended license.
- Take the pledge. Have everyone in your family sign a pledge to drive distraction-free (resources below).
- Set consequences for distracted driving, which could include suspension of driving privileges and/or their phone.
- Encourage your teen to be an ambassador of safe driving with their peers. Teens are often the best messengers to their peers.
- Teachers/educators – Teachers have a unique opportunity to add important safety messaging during their class day. Look for resources (see below) for the classroom – whether that’s remote or in-person. Model safe driving whenever you drive.
- Employers – If you have young employees, promote a culture of safe driving. Car accidents are the leading cause of on-the-job deaths. Set policies for cell phone use in the workplace and educate staff members about safe-driving habits.
- Law enforcement officers – Peace officers are on the front lines of keeping our roads safe and have an outsized influence in reinforcing safe driving habits whenever dealing with young drivers.
- Community members – As a member of your community, take advantage of all the ways you can help keep teen drivers safe. Drive safely every time you get into the car, advocate for teen drivers, join pledges, and make your support visible.
Pledges and Resources
Whether at home, in the classroom, or at the workplace, use the resources below to reinforce safe driving messaging.
- Safe driving pledges
- Family Safe Driving Agreement – a printable family contract from EndDD.org.
- New Driver Deal – a parent-teen agreement from The National Safety Council.
- Safe driving pledge for teens from Impact Teen Drivers
- Just Drive – an online pledge from The National Safety Council.
- Impact Teen Drivers has abundant resources for teachers, including videos, posters, and lesson plans. Also, check out their contest for teens to use their creativity to communicate the importance of safe driving. (Disclaimer: California Casualty is a founding sponsor of this important organization – read more
- TextLess Live More – a student-led, peer-to-peer advocacy group focused on ending distracted driving.
- Traffic Safety Marketing offers downloadable materials for National Teen Driver Safety Week: general safety resources as well as some specifically for distracted driving.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers resources for parents, pediatricians, and community partners to keep teen drivers safe on the road.
Reducing needless teen deaths from car crashes is a cause we can all take part in. One of the most important things you can do is to lead by example. Together we can end distracted driving.
This article is furnished by California Casualty. We specialize in providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
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