Why Parents are Critical in Reducing Teen Crashes.

According to an analysis of car crashes by AAA, the 100 deadliest days for teens are between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Parents are the greatest influence on teen driving behavior so it is important for them to help teens to develop the complex skills involved in becoming a safe driver.

Inexperience and distractions were identified as primary causes in 800 serious crashes studied by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). They found that 76% of the crashes were due to critical teen driver error and nearly half of the crashes were caused by three common errors: not “scanning” enough to recognize hazards; driving too fast for road conditions; or being distracted by things inside or outside of the car.

This data shows that successfully passing the DMV driving test does not automatically mean that a new driver has the experience needed to process and respond safely in complex driving situations. Teens need more than 6 hours of drivers training and 50 hours of supervised driving, which are the minimum requirements for a 16-year-old to get a driver’s license. Parents can reduce crashes by helping novice drivers practice new skills so they gradually earn independence as they demonstrate their ability to drive safely in adverse weather, traffic and road conditions.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention showed that driving simulators reduce crashes involving novice teen drivers by 66%. Built like a car, these simulators provide realistic interactive “behind the wheel” experience to reinforce scanning, speed control and defensive driving skills. They can also help teens understand the effects of distracted driving and driving under the influence so they will avoid unsafe driving decisions. In California, Safety Center’s FOCUSimulator for teen drivers and information is available at www.safetycenter.org

Distracted driving has become a significant factor in teen car crashes due to the prevalence of cell phone use by this age group. Texting is even more dangerous because the car can travel the length of a football field before the driver becomes aware of what is going on around them. Teen drivers need to give their full attention to driving in order to avoid the risks caused by inexperience and distractions. As role models, parents can demonstrate safe driving habits and responsible behavior including avoiding the use of cell phones while driving.

Several studies by CHOP show that teens are in fewer crashes when parents control access to their car, ask questions and create a supportive environment where teens can earn driving privileges. Parents hold the keys to helping teens gain experience and to developing driving strategies that will keep young people in our community safe on the roads this summer.

For more information about the Teen Safe Driving Programs CLICK HERE