What’s the number one cause of deaths among teens? It’s not drinking, drugs, or some type of illness, it’s car accidents. Surprised? Car accidents are responsible for over 2,600 teen deaths in 2013 and injured another 130,000 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The number of teens dying in car accidents is up about 20% from 2011. What’s heartbreaking is most of these deaths are preventable.
The top five factors contributing to deaths in car accidents are not wearing seatbelts (over half weren’t belted), speeding (a factor in 42% of the crashes), alcohol use (20% of the drivers killed were drinking), distracted driving (affected 318 teen drivers), and other passengers.
Parents can, and do, have an opportunity to lower these figures if they’ll take the time to talk about these behaviors with their teens. Interestingly enough, drivers’ education came in third behind dad and mom as being most influential in sharing driving tips with their teens. What that means to me is that they will listen and even adopt safe driving habits when their parents share them. These tips carry even more weight when parents model good driving behavior.
With that in mind, let’s look at each of these behaviors and how parents can provide a positive influence. I heard someone say, when it comes to teaching our kids anything, more is caught than taught!
Seatbelts: Seatbelts save lives for both drivers and passengers. Buckle up every time you get into a vehicle and remind your kids of Texas law; all people in a vehicle must be wearing a seatbelt. Passengers not wearing a seatbelt can be ticketed just like the driver.
Speeding: As hard as it is, parents should drive the posted speed limit (or stay close to it). Talk with your teens about the importance of not speeding including the amount of extra time it takes to stop a car, how driver response time is shortened should something unexpected occur, and the impact a speeding ticket can have on your car insurance premium (it’s huge!). Slow down and arrive alive!
Alcohol Use: If parents drink, then set a positive example for your teen by not drinking and driving. For married couples, have one of the parent’s be the designated driver, or wait until you get home to have a beverage. Teens will do as you do, not as you say in this area!
Distracted Driving: Driving distracted includes texting while driving, talking on the phone, fiddling with the stereo or any behavior when we attempt to multi-task behind the wheel. Refuse to talk on the phone or having one of your teens or passenger read you your text messages models the importance of paying attention to what’s going on around you. In addition, Texas law prohibits cellphone usage, including hands free usage, while driving for anyone under the age of 18 except in the case of an emergency.
Extra Passengers: For many parents, it’s easy to feel like a bus driver hauling kids and friends to soccer practice, a game, to and from school, or even a field trip. While this behavior may be difficult to model, you can remind them of a Texas law; no teen is permitted to drive with more than one passenger under the age of 21 who is not an immediate family member.
Discussing these items isn’t just a “one and done” topic either. This should be a stream of discussions parents have with their teens, whether they are driving or not. They will listen, but they are also watching you. What are you teaching them? Share your thoughts, and teachable moments with me on our Google +, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!