Summertime Blues: Teen Driving and the Risk of Accidents and Injury

Summer is the riskiest time for a teen driver. All the usual suspects are present between Memorial and Labor Day, from newly minted drivers with little experience to increased traffic on the roads.

The leading cause of death for teens is automobile crashes. While it is oft stated, given what is at stake-the lives of children, it cannot be overstated.

AAA reports that while teens make up only seven percent of licensed drivers, they account for one out of every five fatal motor vehicle crashes. Their lack of experience exacerbates all of the other problems encountered when driving:

  • They have insufficient experience identifying hazardous traffic conditions
  • They lack the skills and experience driving in rain and snow
  • They are easily distracted by other passengers and electronic devices

How to Teach Good Driving Habits

Teen drivers learn from their parents, even when they do not appear to be paying attention. The hundreds of hours they have spent in the back seat watching their parents speed, tailgate, change lanes unpredictably and talk on the phone have taught them that this is "normal" driving.

Modeling good driving habits is among the most important things a parent can do to help their teen drivers stay safe.

Other important suggestions include:

  • Limit their driving with other teen drivers. Many states now limit the number of teens in a car with a teen driver. This is because there is a direct connection between the number of teens in a car and the likelihood of a crash.
  • Limit their driving after dark. Again, lack of experience masked by false bravado is a recipe for disaster.
  • States with graduated licenses often limit teen driving hours, allowing exceptions only for driving to or from work. Parents should know the graduated license rules for their state.

"Everybody Does It"

Remind them of the dangers of texting and driving. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control found that 58 percent of teen drivers admitted to texting while driving in the last month. Distracted driving causes sixteen percent of fatal accidents involving teens, and texting is among the most distracting of all driving behaviors.

Parents must emphasize the risks posed by such behavior and constantly work to remind teens that they are taking more than just a phone into their hands when they text while driving. Furthermore, it is illegal to text and drive in most situations in Minnesota.

Teen drivers face many dangers as they begin driving, and they need all the assistance their parents can provide. Making sure they refrain from distracted driving and limiting the number of teen passengers are steps parents can take to help them make it through the excitement of their first summer as a licensed driver.