Behind the Wheel Basics
When a teen starts to drive, it’s a thrilling time for him or her, but often a terrifying time for mom and dad – and with good reason.
When a teen starts to drive, it’s a thrilling time for him or her, but often a terrifying time for mom and dad – and with good reason. Nearly half a million teens are injured in crashes on American roadways every year and 3,800 die.
Many factors contribute to teen driver crashes. They include driving while using alcohol or drugs and not wearing seat belts.
Kathy Monroe is the medical director of the emergency department at Children’s of Alabama. Unfortunately she sees first-hand the consequences of teens practicing unsafe behaviors behind the wheel of a car.
“Teen crashes are often caused by poor decisions like not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, or drinking and driving,” she said. “Often crashes happen due to nothing more than inexperience—they run off the edge of the road, or they over correct, that leads them to crash into another car.
Often distractions contribute to a crash. These may take the driver’s eyes, ears and attention away from the road.
The good news: studies show that parents can play an important role in encouraging the safety of their teen behind the wheel.
“There’s very good evidence that 1,000 miles of supervised driving with an experienced driver dramatically decreases crash rates for teen drivers,” said Monroe.
Ensure Your Insurance Is Right
“ With the amount of youthful drivers on the road, and the higher likelihood that they will be involved in an accident, parents really need to take a look at where their bodily injury liability limits are set. There are far too many drivers on the road with the state minimum requirements for bodily injury liability, and it’s actually the cheapest part of the policy to increase. Remember that once these limits are exhausted, your insurance company stops writing checks and you start!”— Jason McLeod, Alfa Insurance Agent
Graduated Driver License
One approach that’s been very successful in reducing teen driving accidents is the Alabama Graduated Driver License Law. The Graduated Driver License applies to 16-year-olds (and 17-year-olds licensed for less than six months) and contains three components:
- Curfew: 12 a.m. – 6 a.m.
- Limit of passengers: Besides family members, only one passenger under the age of 21 allowed (so no double dates!)
- No handheld devices
Consider creating a contract that spells out driving rules you expect your teen to follow. Have your teen sign it. Make sure they understand that there will be repercussions if they break the contract.
Article provided by Children’s Hospital of Alabama. Find more information on the Graduated Driver License Law and other safety tips and downloads for teens and parents, including a sample contract, at childrensal.org/safe-teen-driving-toolkit.