You have a teenager who just turned 16 and off he/she goes to get their long awaited driver’s license. It is an exciting time for everyone in the family. Suddenly your teen is able to drive the car to all of the practices, schools, and errands, freeing you up from all the driving you have done the last 16 years. What’s NOT so exciting is when something bad happens to your teen driver behind the wheel of the car. Being aware of the 6 most dangerous mistakes that teen drivers make is your first step to promoting safety on the roads.
(1) Distracted Driving
Teenagers are easily distracted regardless of where they are; but being in a vehicle can be even more of a distraction. When the phone rings, a text dings, or a change of a song on the radio, their eyes may divert to whatever is grabbing their attention at that point in time, taking their attention OFF THE ROAD. According to distraction.gov, “11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.” Don’t take your eyes off the road. Those texts and phone calls can wait!
(2) Driving Under the Influence
The legal drinking age in North Carolina is 21 years old; however, many teenagers do consume alcohol and drugs and then get behind the wheel of a car. Teenage drivers are beginners on the road and no matter how much driver’s education they receive, they are still inexperienced. Add drugs or alcohol to the equation, and the risk for an accident goes up substantially. The leading cause of death for teens is auto accidents and one-third of those are alcohol related. Driving while under the influence (DUI) is not only illegal, but also can impair your teen’s judgment and reaction time while operating a vehicle. The results can be DEADLY!
All too often, we read about teenage fatalities resulting from speeding on the roads. Even more often than texting or talking on the phone, speeding causes more teen fatalities. Speeding is the contributing cause in one out of every three fatal accidents, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Teenagers need to be aware of the posted speed limits on the roads and highways and obey these rules. It could cost them their life or someone else’s life if they don’t.
(4) Not Wearing Seat Belts
In North Carolina, it is a legal requirement to buckle up when you operate a vehicle; however, many teen drivers do NOT! The number one cause of teen deaths is the result of auto accidents; however, wearing a seat belt can reduce the chance of fatalities occurring. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only 76% of teens regularly use their seat belt. The law is in place for safety reasons and is enforced. Buckle up for safety!
Your teen driver may have driving experience and a successful completion of their driver’s education course; however, they are still young and inexperienced! It is common for teens, in order to avoid an accident, to overcorrect their vehicle, resulting in fatalities. For example, if the teen is following too closely to the car in front of them, and that car suddenly stops, the teenager may swerve too hard, forcing their vehicle into an oncoming lane or off the road into a tree. The end result of this is NEVER good. It is important that your teen driver be informed of the many situations that may occur when driving and to stay calm. Teen drivers tend to panic when something quick happens and it can lead to very serious accidents and fatalities!
(6) Following Too Closely
The rule of thumb for drivers is to allow one car length for every 10 mph you are travelling on the road, and more depending on the road conditions (ex: rain, snow, etc.). It is important that teen drivers know this information because they are inexperienced and if traffic stops suddenly, your teen may not have enough time to react and plow into the car ahead. Having the proper amount of space between your teen’s car and the next one is important for road safety.
Having a teen driver in the family can still be an exciting time as long as you are informative of your expectations, road regulations and laws. Discussing the 6 most common, deadly mistakes that teenagers make should make everyone feel more educated and relaxed. Teaching your teens to stay focused and attentive to the road is HUGE. It’s a matter of life or death!