Memorial Day weekend starts in a couple of days marking the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. Most teens are thinking about freedom, summer vacation, maybe a job, or some other activity for the next couple of months.
There are many that will be getting their first driver’s license and have the opportunity to drive on their own. Even if it’s to chauffeur a younger sibling to ball practice or run to the store to pick up some last minute item for that night’s dinner, they are driving! What most don’t realize is summer is one of the most deadly time periods for teen drivers.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 8 of the top 10 deadliest days for teen drivers fall between June 1 and August 31. The top 10 deadliest days, as measured from 2007 to 2011, are:
- July 4
- August 29
- August 1
- August 2
- August 14
- September 26
- November 24
- June 21
- June 27
- July 8
No one really knows why these days are the top 10 days for teen auto fatalities. There are, however, a number of educated guesses by groups such as the Insurance Institute who monitor this. First and foremost is experience. Summer is when a number of teens with newly minted driver’s licenses hit the road and they simply don’t have the experience behind the wheel of someone who’s been driving for a couple of years.
Driving experience is a learned and practiced skill. It’s one thing to be told in a classroom what to do when certain driving situations arise, it’s another thing to experience it and then respond accordingly.
I believe there are a number of things parents can do to help better prepare our teens to drive. Here are 7 suggestions from a various organizations, as well as a few of my own that were employed with my three sons when they first started driving.
- Limit the number people in the car they can ride with and that can ride with them. Texas law restricts the number of passengers in the car to 1 below the age of 21 when no adult is present.
- Avoid giving a teen primary access to a vehicle in their first year of driving. Let them earn it based on their level of responsibility.
- Talk with them about safe driving habits (see http://126.96.36.199/~wiseinsu/5-safe-driving-habits-teen-drivers/ for 5 topics you can discuss).
- Take them out driving and expose them to multiple driving scenarios such as rush hour traffic on Central Expressway or LBJ Freeway. Better to learn it with you present than on your own.
- Encourage them to drive with no distractions, no cell phone (Texas law states no driver younger than 18 can use a cell phone while driving) and no music. First year drivers should learn to hear and see what’s going on around them. Everything else is a distraction.
- Set a curfew. Texas law states no driver younger than 21 may drive between midnight and 5:00 a.m. without an adult present. This time alone is when nearly two thirds of all wrecks involving young drivers take place.
- Set geographic limits. When each of my sons started driving, their mom and I would create geographic boundaries they had to stay within. The boundaries grew with each year of driving experience until they left for college where the boundaries were reduced to communicate with us where you are.
Consider giving them a free pass to call you and have you pick them up at anytime and anywhere with no questions asked. There are times when they know they are not in a safe place and this gives them the freedom to ask for help without having to tell you the whole situation that may involve one of their friends.
What do you think? Share your suggestions, comments, or questions with me in the comments section of our blog or on our Google + and Facebook pages. I’d love to hear from you!