Exercising caution and safety behind the wheel is, and should be, stressed year-round. However, each year, an entire week is dedicated to promoting safety among teen drivers, and it is appropriately called National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW). This year, it was held over the week of October 15-21. While this topic should always be discussed and promoted, safety is particularly stressed during this designated week.
Of all age groups, teens are some of the individuals most-susceptible to getting hurt while driving or riding in a vehicle, according to safety experts. Drivers between 15-20 years old are most vulnerable to passing away in a car accident. Many reasons have been given, including lack of driving experience, immaturity, drug and alcohol abuse, driving while distracted (such as using cell phones and listening to music), and driving while drowsy. To reduce teen driver accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking action.
NTDSW includes several campaigns, each with its own message.
- 5 to Drive
- Teens and Seat Belt Use – lack of consistent seat belt use has been linked to teen driving fatalities. For example, in more than 50% of 15-19 year old auto accident fatalities, those who died were not wearing their seat belts. This problem affects drivers as well as their passengers.
- U Drive-U Text-U Pay – by now, everybody knows the dangers of texting while driving. Over 3,400 people were killed in 2015 alone due to some form of distracted driving. This campaign focuses on teen drivers in addition to those under the age of 34.
- Underage Drinking Prevention – despite stringent drinking laws in place, underage drinking occurs at an alarming rate, particularly among teens. For instance, in 2013, 29% of “young drivers” killed in car wrecks had alcohol in their system. Parents and educators are encouraged to tell 16 and 17 year olds that drinking while driving is the “the ultimate Party Foul.”
How can we ensure NTDSW actually reaches its potential and meets its lofty goals? People throughout the community must play an active role. These lessons can be taught in driving classes and schools, but they must be stressed at home. Parents first should educate their children on how to drive safely and avoid distractions while operating a vehicle. In addition, parents should set a positive example through their behavior. Children who watch their parents speed, express road rage, text while drive, and commit similar acts are much more likely to engage in that behavior on their own.
It is no secret that children look to their parents as role models, even though they may not express it often. Safety Insurance lists three specific areas where parental guidance is most needed. The first is managing speed. Parents can discuss the importance of following the speed limit, why speed limits decrease in areas like construction zones, and why to go slower in bad weather. The second is reducing distraction. Studies show distractions go up when the cars are full of peers. The third and final area is scanning the road. It is critical to always pay attention to your surroundings and exhibit defensive driving.