It’s a phone call that no one wants to get — the one that comes at 2:00 A.M. when you’re anxiously waiting for your teen to come home hours after their curfew has passed. It’s the call from the hospital, informing you that your teenage son or daughter has been involved in a car accident and you need to come to the hospital right away.
In California in 2013, there were 349 drivers under the age of 20 that were involved in a fatal car crash, up 5.5% from the previous year. Car accident fatalities for teens aged 16-19 increased 11.8% from 2012 to 2013, topping out at 204 deaths for the year. 78% of teen motor vehicle deaths are males.
This week is Teen Driver Safety Week, and it’s important to take some time to think about ways you can help your teen be safer on the road.
1. Limit Your Teen’s Cell Phone Use While Driving
With today’s prevalent technology, it seems as though every teen has their face in a smartphone. However, cell phone use while driving can cause serious accidents. Let your teen know how dangerous it is to use a cell phone while driving and let them know that texts and phone calls can wait. Monitor your teen’s phone and let them know there will be consequences if you discover they were using their phone behind the wheel. Another great tip, don’t drive distracted yourself. If your teen witnesses you using a cell phone while driving, you will be setting a poor example on proper behavior while driving.
2. Always Give Your Teen a Safe Way Home
If your teen has been drinking, he or she may be afraid to call you to get a ride home. Your teen may be tempted to get behind the wheel or ride home with another driver who has also been drinking. Inform your teen that he or she can always call you to get a safe ride home, no matter what the circumstances are. If your teen does call for a ride home, avoid imposing consequences until the next morning.
3. Teach Your Teen Safe Driving Skills
Don’t rely on school driving programs to teach your teens how to operate a vehicle safety. Instead, take the opportunity to teach safe driving skills by going out several times with your teen and expose them to different driving situations. Explain the do’s and don’ts of operating a vehicle, such as do pay attention to the road, do check rearview mirrors often, and don’t look away from the road while talking with other passengers in the vehicle or playing music on the radio.
Graduated Driver’s License Program
Like many other states, California has a Graduated Driver’s License Program that allows teens to take a graduated approach to obtaining the privilege to operate a motor vehicle on the state’s roadways. Under this program, teens will be 15 1/2 before they can obtain a driver’s permit, and must complete 50 hours of driving within 6 months before they can obtain a restricted license at the age of 16. A restricted license will prohibit teens from driving between the hours of 11:00 P.M. and 5:00 A.M. when the risk of accidents is at its highest, and passengers under the age of 20 may not ride in the car, with the exception of immediate family members. These restrictions can be lifted and a full license can be obtained at the age of 17. The GDL Program is designed to teach teen drivers the skills they need to be safe on the road through a series of tried-and-true steps.
The goal of the California Teen Safe Driving Coalition is zero teen accidents — zero injuries, zero fatalities and zero devastating phone calls to parents in the middle of the night. With over 35 organizations working together to raise awareness of the common causes of motor vehicle crashes involving teens and what can be done to prevent them, the state of California and its parents can help lower the likelihood of teen driving accidents and enjoy a reduced teen accident rate.