It is an unfortunate fact that the number one cause of death for teens is car accidents. This week brings teen driver safety into the national spotlight, increasing awareness of the dangers for teen drivers and their passengers, as well as other motorists who may be victims in accidents involving teenage drivers.
According to TeenDriverSource.org, the riskiest period for teen drivers in regards to becoming involved in a crash occurs in the six months immediately after a teen gets his or her driver’s license.
The theme for this year’s NTDSW is ‘Support Older Novice Drivers: Build Awareness of the Trend in Delayed Licensure.’ Many teenagers today are not getting their driver’s licenses until the age of 18 or even older, partly due to economic reasons. In lower income families, teens are often 19, 20, or even older before they obtain a license.
Not too many years ago, many states allowed for teens who were 16 years old to obtain a full driver’s license without going through a GDL, or graduated driver license program. As long as the teen passed the written exam and demonstrated his/her ability to navigate turns, parking, and driving around the block, he/she could get a license. Today, many states have implemented GDL programs in an effort to reduce the risks of accidents in teen drivers.
Why are teens at an increased risk for accidents when compared to older drivers? While seasoned drivers certainly get involved in accidents, teens are particularly vulnerable. Some of the dangers and risks with teenage drivers include:
- Texting/talking on cell phones. Like many adult drivers, teens often believe there is no risk in texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.
- Critical driving errors. The three major factors in serious accidents involving teen drivers include:
- Driving at speeds too fast for road conditions – for instance, going into a curve at speeds to high to navigate the curve, driving too fast on wet/slick roads, etc.
Distractions inside or outside of the vehicle. Inside a vehicle there can be countless distractions. As already mentioned, texting or talking on a cell phone. However, other distractions can include teenage passengers, eating while driving, changing out music CD’s, driving with the music too loud, applying makeup, etc. Teens are also more apt to look at someone driving beside them or pay attention to outside distractions, taking their attention from the road.
Not paying attention to potential hazards. In order to avoid accidents, it is important for teens to scan the roadway in front of them so that they are aware of drivers in front of them, or even deer or other animals darting across the roadway or Interstate. Detecting hazards so that they can be quickly responded to is essential to safe driving.
How can you help educate older novice teen drivers in your community?
Perhaps DMV licensing centers could provide older novice drivers with educational materials targeted to these drivers. Including a Driver’s Education course as a credit in order to obtain a GED may be beneficial. Employers who employ a significant number of teens may consider hosting classes regarding the basics of navigating their GDL, or Driver Education classes. There are countless ways that each individual state in the U.S. could boost their own state’s GDL.
If you are a parent who engages in distracted behavior or “multi-tasks” while driving your own children, consider the example you are setting. This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week; at Grabel & Associates, we urge all parents, teachers, and others in positions of authority to work together to educate teens about GDL programs and the risks of distracted driving.