It’s not just good parenting, it’s a matter of life and death. Parents need to start talking to their kids about traffic safety early and often–before they reach driving age. When teens do begin driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that parents set rules and define and enforce the consequences if the rules are broken. Driving is a privilege and to keep that privilege, teens must follow the rules.
Getting through to teens isn’t always easy, but research shows that teens do listen to their parents and that they can influence driving safety habits. Parents should lead by example and practice safe driving behaviors whenever their children are in the vehicle.
Distracted Driving is on the Rise…
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008, nearly 6,000 people died because of a distracted driver and more than a half-million were injured.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Below are the main issues that NHTSA believes should be addressed once teens start driving.
RULE 1: PUT IT DOWN!
Young drivers under the age of 20 are especially at risk of distracted driving. Their lack of driving experience can lead to critical misjudgments when they are distracted. Not surprisingly, they text more than any other age group and the numbers continue to increase. Parents should talk about the risks associated with texting or talking on the phone while driving and make their expectations clear.
RULE 2: ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL!
All States and the District of Columbia have 21-year-old minimum drinking age laws. In 2008, 31% of the young drivers (15-20 years old) who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher; 25% had a BAC of .08 or higher. The statistics prove it; alcohol and driving don’t mix but it’s especially important for less experienced drivers to never get behind the wheel after drinking. Make it clear to your teenage drivers that drinking and driving will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
While blood-alcohol level determines the severity of the offense in New York, any amount of alcohol affects a driver’s judgment and coordination. And even first time offenses for drinking and driving carry stiff penalties and significant costs. Here is a sampling:
- Towing: $100+
- Car Storage (per day): $45+
- Defense Attorney: $500-$1,500+
- Bail Fee: $0-$250+
- Fine: $300-$2,500
- Court Surcharge: $140
- Alcohol Evaluation: $90+
- DWI Victim-Impact Panel Session: $25
- Probation Supervision Fee: $0-$250+
- Conditional License: $75
- Drinking Driver Program Fee: $225
- DMV Civil Penalty: $300
- Ignition-Interlock Installation (per vehicle): $200
- Ignition-Interlock Rental ($100 per month/vehicle, minimum 6 months): $600+
- DMV License-Reinstatement Fee: $50
- Auto Insurance (additional cost per year): $2,000-$3,000
Total Cost for a First-Time Offender: $4,650-$9,350+
RULE 3: ALWAYS BUCKLE UP!
In 2008, of the 15-to-20-year-old passenger vehicle occupants killed in all fatal crashes, 60% (of those whose restraint was known) were unrestrained.
RULE 4: HAVE THE CAR IN THE DRIVEWAY BY THE DESIGNATED TIME!
More teens are in fatal crashes during nighttime hours than during the day. Almost 70% of occupant fatalities in the 16 to 20 (68%) age range were unrestrained during nighttime.
RULE 5: NO MORE THAN ONE PASSENGER IN THE CAR AT ALL TIMES!
Most teens are susceptible to peer pressure, which often leads to risky behavior. In a survey completed by the Allstate Foundation, 47% of teens polled said they are sometimes distracted by passengers and nearly as many said they drive more safely without friends in the car. Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash increases in proportion to the number of teenage passengers.
RULE 6: FOLLOW NEW YORK STATE’S GDL LAWS!
Immaturity and inexperience are some of the primary contributors to fatal crashes by teen drivers. Graduated Driver Licensing laws address these factors by reducing high-risk exposure for novice drivers. Studies clearly show the benefits of GDL laws with 20% to 50% reductions in crashes of young novice drivers. (NHTSA July 2008 Teen Driver Crash Report to Congress)
New York State GDL Laws:
1. To get a learners license you must be at least 16 years of age.
2. Before getting a license or restricted license you must:
- Have a mandatory holding period of 6 months
- Have a minimum supervised driving time of 50 hours (15 of which must be at night)
- Have a minimum age of 16.5 years
3. Restrictions during intermediate or restricted license stage:
- Nighttime restrictions: 9pm-5am
- Passenger restrictions: no more than 1 passenger younger than 21 years of age
4. Minimum age at which restrictions may be lifted:
- Nighttime restrictions: 17 (18 without driver education)
- Passenger restrictions: 17 (18 without driver education)
(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, www.iihs.org)
RULE 7: FOLLOW THE HOUSE RULES OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES.
Parents need to set “house rules” for their teen drivers and define consequences that will be enforced. This can be done with a parent/teen contract or by having a continuing conversation about your expectations and consequences. Don’t worry if your “house rules” exceed what state laws provide. You’re not being strict, you could be saving your children’s lives.