By Joseph M. Wilson, Jr., Attorney at Law
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. Teens frequently overestimate their driving skills or simply do not have enough experience behind the wheel to react when the unexpected happens. This can lead to their being injured or killed, or can result in them causing a serious or fatal crash involving another driver.
Here are some things to consider before you send your teen out on the road for the first time:
- Download a copy of the National Safety Council’s Parent/Teen Driving Agreement and have your teen read and sign the agreement. Talk about the safety points and your expectations.
- Make sure you teen gets lots of practice, moving some simple driving to more complex situations. Continue to talk to your son or daughter about how to handle each situation.
- Having passengers in the vehicle can increase the chances of a crash as you child may become distracted. Do not allow passengers when your teen is inexperienced.
- Nighttime driving is also a known risk factor in crashes. Limit your teen’s initial driving to daylight hours.
- Whether or not the state you live in has a texting ban (almost all states do at this point), your teen should not engage in any form of distracted behavior. This includes talking on the phone, texting, checking email, programming the GPS, fiddling with the radio, etc.
- If you live in an area where there is snow or ice, take your teen to an empty lot to allow him or her to practice before hitting the roads.
- Consider that many of the alcohol-related traffic deaths involve teen drivers. While you may not think your child will drink (or use drugs) or that he or she even has access to alcohol, you should talk to them about it anyway.
The National Safety Council has other resources available on their website, as does Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Give your teens the facts and help them to understand that they are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others on the road every time they get behind the wheel of a car. The auto accident attorneys at Merritt Webb encourage all parents to talk with their teens frequently about safety.