Learning how to drive includes learning the rules of the road and gaining experience behind the wheel. Some learner can take quite a bit of time to master the art of driving and gain the skills necessary to become a safe, competent driver.
Even then, drivers must continue to avoid driver distractions, stay alert to road hazards and other dangers which could lead to a serious or fatal car accident. This is particularly true of teen drivers.
The United States has extensively studied this issue and the results are instructive here.
According to an article from the AAA Newsroom, teen drivers in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 19 are more at risk of vehicle accidents than drivers in any other age group. The teen driver is not the only one at risk.
Consider these statistics:
About two-thirds of the people who suffer serious or fatal injuries in accidents involving teen drivers are persons other than the teenager.Close to 50 percent of those injured and 30 percent of those killed in accidents with a teen driver were passengers in another vehicle.An estimated 17 percent of those killed and 27 percent of those injured were passengers in the teen driver’s vehicle.
Factors Which Put Teen Drivers Most at Risk
To limit the problems posed by teen drivers and to reduce their risk of accident and injury, we must understand the factors which put teen drivers most at risk.
One study identified key contributing factors that put teen drivers at risk, including:
- Teens do not always have the experience and skill that would allow them to recognize and take proper action to avoid hazardous situations.
- Teens often misestimate or underestimate the serious nature of a potentially dangerous situation.
- Teens have been shown to be more prone to tailgating the vehicle in front of them, a very dangerous driving behaviour.
- Teens who drive with teen passengers, particularly male teenage passengers, are more likely to submit to peer pressure and engage in aggressive or risky driving behaviour.
- An estimated 37 percent of the male teenage drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in vehicle accidents, were speeding immediately prior to the collision.
- An estimated 25 percent of male teenage drivers under the age of 20 had been drinking prior to being involved in a motor vehicle crash.
- Teens are far less likely to wear seat belts than drivers and passengers in other age groups.
- Teens face a heightened risk of sustaining fatal injuries in an accident when driving between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and midnight, or on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
- Inexperience is the main cause of teen accident-related fatalities, according to the CDC.
What Parents Can Do to Help Make Their Teen a Safer Driver
As a parent, handing the keys to your car over to your teen for the first time is a frightening and emotional experience. You want your son or daughter to drive safely, but the fact is, these dangers do exist.
Fortunately, parents who work with their teen drivers to help make them a safer, more responsible driver can dramatically reduce the chances of a child becoming a tragic accident statistic.
If you are the parent of a teen driver, your first action should be to educate your teen on the eight danger zones which account for the majority of teen collisions and what to avoid.
These include driver inexperience, driving with teen passengers, driving at night, failing to wear a seatbelt, driving while distracted, drowsy driving, reckless driving behaviour and impaired driving.
Parents should also take these actions to protect the safety of a young driver:
- Create a parent-teen driving agreement which explicitly lays out the rules of the road and restrictions your teen must adhere to in order to retain his or her driving privileges.
- Let your teen know that BC laws do not allow Learner or Novice drivers to use a cellphone or other electronic device, (regardless of whether it is hand-held or hands-free). Both texting and talking on the phone is illegal in Vancouver and throughout the province, according to BCAA.
- Make sure your teen driver understands he or she must adhere to Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) restrictions. One of which states that if a Learner or Novice driver is found have been drinking and driving or consuming drugs and then driving, that driver could face a license suspension, a driving record review, paying for a new licensing fee, and could end up having to restart their one-year Learner period or two-year Novice period from the beginning. BC has a zero-tolerance policy regarding teen drivers, alcohol and drugs.
- Get your teen enrolled in a driver education program so he or she can learn the skills necessary to become an alert and responsible driver.