Posted on October 27th, 2022 by Zane Cagle
When your teen begins to drive, you worry. Operating a motor vehicle is one of the most risky daily activities we encounter. As a parent, you want to give your kids opportunities to make decision in a safe way. Unlike hypothetical decision making scenarios, driving happens in traffic where mistakes and driving errors can result in severe injury consequences or worse-fatalities.
Parents of teen drivers are usually worried and for good reason. We remember being teen drivers ourselves.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, ages 12-19. In fact, about one-third of teen deaths are motor vehicle related. Motor vehicle fatalities are always tragic because most are preventable. Preventable injury and death are by definition, a tragedy.
Teen Fatalities Increased
Teen driver fatalities rose by 17 percent in 2020 compared with 2019. One thousand eight hundred and eighty-five teens between the ages of 12 and 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes. We know there are safety efforts we can take to reduce this number. There are several risk factors specific to teens with inexperience. When other factors such as speeding, distraction and alcohol are combined with inexperience, the results are combined for a negative result.
We have all been personally impacted by a fatal teen car crash. Most of us attended a funeral of a classmate in high school. Those experiences are traumatic and we know sometimes families never recover. Most of these crashes are really tragic because they are preventable. Thus, daily we want to remind all drivers that safety is the best prevention.
Not enough can be said about the importance of all drivers wearing seat belts. (We know because we say it all the time) Seat belt usage reduces the risk of fatalities by 45 percent. As the parent of a teen, I share every other parent’s concerns. Will my teen make good driving choices? Have I been a good role model for my teen as a driver? You hope that you have taught them well and encouraged them to make the right decisions.
In most modern motor vehicles, you have to make a conscious decision to avoid wearing a seat belt in the front seats. The car alarm system sends continual notices to engage the seat belt, so drivers and front seat passengers have to make a real effort to avoid to sit on top of the engaged seat belt or bear the constant notifications. It takes a great deal more effort to not wear a seat belt than it does to simply click it.
Parents must insist on seat belts on every trip and encourage their teen to buckle up before turning on the ignition. Likewise, as parents, we have to model this same behavior. “Do what I say and not as I do” has never really led an adolescent to follow said advice.
In 2019, 43 percent of high school students nationwide reported not always wearing their seat belt.
We review the Missouri State Highway Patrol crash reports daily. It is disheartening to see the number of drivers and occupants in Missouri who fail to buckle up. No, seat belts cannot prevent all fatalities, but upping your odds by 45 percent seems like a remarkable idea! Increasing your kid’s chance of survival by 45 percent is convincing.
Distracted driving is a problem for all drivers but even worse for inexperienced drivers. When we see experienced drivers failing to resist the temptation to text and drive, we know that it is really challenging for a less mature driver. As a parent, you can be involved in avoiding this driving behavior. None of us drive safely when we are texting, emailing posting or taking selfies.
As the parent who purchases the phone for your teen, you can monitor what happens on that phone. It requires some effort. Yes, I understand that teens have a growing need for privacy. As a parent and a car crash attorney, I can appreciate my teen’s growing need for privacy but also be involved in protecting them from foreseeable dangers. Protecting or monitoring your child’s phone and internet activity has become really crucial in of itself.
I am unapologetic in saying that as a parent, if monitoring my kid’s phones while they are operating a vehicle helps to keep them safe, I’m signed up. If I can increase their safety on the roadway by knowing where they are and how they are driving, I can evaluate their driving behaviors, intervene or stop driving privileges altogether.
Again, no adult should be driving under the influence thus even more asinine for teens since they are not of legal age to consume alcohol. Yet in 2019, 60 percent of drivers aged 15-20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of .08% or higher. In 2019, 60 percent of drivers aged 15-20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving and not wearing seat belt. For young drivers involved in fatal crashes, alcohol involvement is typically higher among male drivers than among female drivers.
It can be far more difficult to monitor older teens once they leave the house for other opportunities or college. Thus, that teaching window for driver safety is so important now.
Any Risk Happens to Impact Teen Drivers More Intensely
Whether it is speeding, use of prescriptions, drowsiness, alcohol or distraction–all risky behaviors seriously impact an inexperienced driver all the more.
What Can I Really Do? A Lot!
Many parents ask this question and wonder what they can really do when their teen starts driving. We are the parents and there is actually quite a bit we an do. As a teen I thought I was pretty independent when I got a car, but the reality of the situation was Dad could take the keys at any time–he was the parent. As a parent, we may feel that we cannot supervise our teens and their driving since we are not in the car. Actually, parents are the strongest force in promoting safe driving for teens through our supervision, teaching and monitoring.
As parents, we can parent safer teen driving by doing quite a few things:
- ensure compliance with graduated driver licensing compliance laws
- restrict night time driving
- limit teen passengers
- share the car to prevent speeding
- discuss consequences
- be involved.
There are so many more ways for parents to be involved in monitoring their teen’s driving behaviors than when I was a teen. There are applications for download that allow you to monitor and track your teenage driver. You can not only track the location of your child but it lets you now about driving behaviors such as speeding, phone distraction, hard braking and acceleration.
Just as adult drivers engage in more safety conscious driving when our driving is monitored (driving apps for reduced insurance, event recorders, video, etc) , teens do the same if they think they are being monitored. Again, these applications allow you to monitor your child whether or not you actually check it very often. Depending on the vehicle operated, there are a number of safety monitoring applications. Some parents may be reluctant to monitor their teen’s driving behaviors. As a car crash attorney, I represent those seriously injured and families of those killed in crashes. I will absolutely do everything in my power to be sure my child is operating one of my vehicles safely.
Our opportunities to really focus on driver safety with my teen correlates with their interest in wanting to drive. I remember being pretty motivated to learn and comply when I neared driving age. We are pretty anxious to achieve the independence and freedom that comes with a driver’s license.
Can you out parent every car crash? Absolutely not.
As operating a motor vehicle is an immense responsibility, we should seize on our child’s interest with that same responsibility. You can prepare your child for safe driving. Riding in a vehicle is possibly the most risky thing we do every day. We come to accept it because it is a necessity. What we do not have to accept is recklessness and lack of responsibility in ourselves, children and others.
Safer teen drivers become safer adult drivers.
Steps After a Car Crash
If you are involved in a car crash, have a plan. Having a plan significantly helps with the anxiety of being in a collision and having a sense of how to respond.
- Call the police. Immediately call the police so the crash can be documented and police can assist with traffic to avoid further injury.
- Gather information at the scene. Of course, this step assumes that you are physically able to do so. Since we all have smart phones, take photos of the other driver’s information and take photos of the vehicles at the scene.
- Give your statement of fact to the officer. Just the facts. While most of us are really upset after a crash, just give statements about what you saw and did. Don’t speculate.
- Seek medical treatment. If you have pain, seek medical treatment. There are many people who are not critically injured but still have pain. Pain is the first and strongest indication that something is wrong. Seek medical help immediately.
- Call an attorney. Not everyone that has been in a car crash needs an attorney. What not access all of the free advice and information you can?