Many teen drivers are still new to the public roads, and though now legal drivers, don’t always have all the tools needed in order to drive safely. Many times teens are distracted by the radio, friends, phone calls and even text messages while driving. (In a recent case in New Jersey, an injured party sued both the driver who was texting AND the girlfriend who was at the other end of the texts.)
Car Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, constituting 36% of all deaths in this age group according to the Centers for Disease Control. Each year over 5,000 teens, ages 16 to 19, die due to fatal injuries caused by car accidents. About 400,000 drivers age 16 to 19 are seriously injured. The risk of being involved in a car accident is higher for drivers aged 16 to 19 than it is for any other age group. For each mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are about four times (4x) more likely than other drivers to crash. Teenagers are about 10 percent of the US Population, but drivers (both male and female) under age 24 account for 30% of the accidents.
The risk of a crash is highest during the first year teenagers are able to drive.
Below are tips to help your teenager stay focused while on the road:
- Always wear your seat belt--and make sure all passengers buckle up, too.
- Adjust your car's headrest to a height behind your head--not your neck--to minimize whiplash in case you're in an accident.
- Never try to fit more people in the car than you have seatbelts for.
- Obey the speed limits. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excess speed is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
- Don't run red lights.
- Use turn signals to indicate your intention to turn or to change lanes, and make sure the signals turns off after you've completed the action.
- When light turns green, make sure intersection clears before you go.
- Don't drive like you own the road; drive like you own the car.
- Make sure your windshield is clean. At sunrise and sunset, light reflecting off your dirty windshield can momentarily blind you from seeing what's going on.
- Drive into your garage straight, not on an angle. (Surprising how many mishaps happen here)
- Make sure your car has gas in it. Don't ride around with the gauge on empty--who knows where you might get stranded.
- Don't drink and drive, and don't ride with anyone who has been drinking. Call parents or friends to take you home if you need a ride.
- Don't take drugs and drive. Don't ride with anyone who has been using drugs. Even some over the counter drugs can make you drowsy. Check label for warnings.
Distractions cause many accidents for both new and experienced drivers. Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds, could have disastrous results.
Here are some tips to avoid distractions:
- Don't eat in the car. Fumbling with food, dropping food or trying to drive with one hand can cause problems.
- Avoid fiddling with controls such as radio, heaters, AC, and mirrors while driving. Better to pull over and adjust them, then return to the road.
- For new drivers, don't drive with friends in the car.
- Don't use cell phones while driving. Pull off the road in a safe place to make calls.
- Check your vision. If you need glasses, be sure to wear them while driving.
- Wear sunglasses when driving in bright sunlight. Sun glare can also be a distraction.
- Avoid playing the radio too loud, the distraction could keep you from hearing sirens from emergency vehicles.
- If something falls on the floor, don't try to pick it up while driving. Wait until you are parked.
- Driving is not the time to check your email, read the paper or a book.
- Don't respond to a text while driving--or even stopped in traffic. No message is worth getting into an accident for.
- Always keep your eyes on the road and be aware of what other drivers are doing.
- Cell phones are a huge distraction now that there is text messaging. Avoid it.
I am in the (presently) fortunate position that I don’t have any teen drivers in my household. However, this situation will change drastically in the next couple of years.
I recall as a teen, an article that appeared in a Dear Abbey column. It has stuck with me for all these years, and I believe that it should be MANDATORY reading for any teen before they are allowed to get their license (and perhaps, daily after that).
It is called “Please God, I’m Only 17”, but applies to everyone. Here it is:
The day I died was an ordinary day. How I wish I had taken the bus! But I was too cool for the bus. I remember how I wheedled the car out of Mom. "Special favor," I pleaded. "All the kids drive." When the 2:50 p.m. bell rang, I threw my books in the locker . . . free until tomorrow morning! I ran to the parking lot, excited at the thought of driving a car and being my own boss.
It doesn't matter how the accident happened. I was goofing off -- going too fast, taking crazy chances. But I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard a crash and felt a terrific jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream.
Suddenly, I awakened. It was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. I saw a doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Strange that I couldn't feel anything.
Hey, don't pull that sheet over my head. I can't be dead. I'm only 17. I've got a date tonight. I'm supposed to have a wonderful life ahead of me. I haven't lived yet. I can't be dead.
Later, I was placed in a drawer. My folks came to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at Mom's eyes when she faced the most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked very old. He told the man in charge, "Yes, he's our son."
The funeral was weird. I saw all of my relatives and friends walk toward the casket. They looked at me with the saddest eyes I've ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of the girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked by.
Please, somebody -- wake me up! Get me out of here. I can't bear to see Mom and Dad in such pain. My grandparents are so weak from grief they can barely walk. My brother and sister are like zombies. They move like robots. In a daze. Everybody. No one can believe this. I can't believe it, either.
Please, don't bury me! I'm not dead! I have a lot of living to do! I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please don't put me in the ground! I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I'll be the most careful driver in the whole world. All I want is one more chance. Please, God, I'm only 17.
Please everyone, drive safe and drive smart. Car Accidents in Arizona are a growing problem. You already can see the stats nation-wide. Arizona can do something about these accidents and help keep our young drivers safe.