Help Spread the Message About Safe Driving During National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 18-24
October 6, 2020
Learning how to drive is an exciting part of the journey to adulthood. Because of teens inexperience behind the wheel, however, driving can often be dangerous. Tragically, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens 15 to 18 in the United States. To help keep you and your fellow teen drivers safe, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is teaming up with the Youth Safety Council of Vermont during National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 18-24, 2020, to encourage teen drivers to follow the rules of the road while behind the wheel.
As a teen, it’s easy to think you’re invincible. NHTSA wants to share these stats with you, not to scare, but to emphasize the critical importance of safe driving. In 2018, there were 2,121 people killed in crashes involving a teen passenger vehicle driver (15-18 years old), of which 719 deaths were the teen driver — a 5% decrease from 2017. In fact, in 2018, there were an estimated 88,000 teen drivers injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, and an estimated 256,000 people injured in crashes involving a teen driver, accounting for almost 10% of all those injured that year.
Remember: Driving is a privilege, not a right. While it may be tempting to hop in the car with your keys and new license and cruise the roads, we want to take this time to talk about the importance of safe driving habits and of following the law. We’re counting on your parents and guardians to help us share this information, and we’re counting on you to listen to it. During this week, we’ll be promoting five rules of the road you should follow to be a safer driver and to avoid crashes.
Impress mom, dad, or your caregiver: Visit NHTSA.gov and read their tips on teen driving safety. These influential adults will likely want to discuss with you the most dangerous and deadly driving behaviors for teen drivers: alcohol, lack of seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding, and driving with passengers.
Teens, your parents play an important role in helping you take smart steps to stay safe on the road, but ultimately it’s up to you to make the right decisions behind the wheel. The following five rules are a great starting point in your driver education — helping you become a safer driver.
- Don’t Drive Impaired. If you are under age 21, it’s illegal for you to drink alcohol, and it’s illegal for you to drive after drinking alcohol. Did you know that in 2018, 16% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system? But alcohol isn’t the only substance that can make you an unsafe driver: Marijuana, like other drugs, affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Driving is a complex task, and marijuana slows reaction times, affecting the driver’s ability to drive safely. Remember that alcohol and drugs — illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter — impair driving and have deadly consequences.
- Buckle Up — Every Trip, Every Time. Everyone — Front Seat and Back. Your seat belt is designed to keep you safe in a crash, but only if you’re wearing it. You should always buckle your seat belt, whether you’re sitting in the front seat or back — no matter how long or short the trip. In 2018, almost half (45%) of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died were unbuckled. Even more troubling, when the teen driver involved in the fatal crash was unbuckled, nine out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled. Before you start driving, buckle your seat belt and check to make sure your passengers are wearing theirs, too. It’s a simple task that could save your life.
- Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel. All the Time. It’s tempting to answer a text or check your social media accounts while driving, but those few seconds that you take your eyes off the road could be your last. In 2018, among teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes, almost 10% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. If you think that your cell phone is your only distraction, you’re wrong: Other passengers, audio and climate controls, and eating or drinking while driving are all examples of dangerous distracted driving. Loud music is distracting, too. Be sure to always take your headphones off before driving. You need to be able to hear another vehicle’s horn, or the siren from an emergency vehicle.
- Follow the Posted Speed Limit. Speed limits aren’t just suggestions; they are there to keep you safe. In 2018, more than one-quarter (28%) of teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. Remember to always drive within the speed limit; it could be what saves you from a deadly crash.
- Driving your friends to school may seem like a good idea, but it’s not. According to NHTSA, teen drivers were 2.5 times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger, when compared to driving alone. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behaviors triples when driving with multiple passengers. If you have a provisional driver’s license, be sure you are aware of the restrictions in your state’s graduated driver licensing laws regarding transporting passengers, driving at night, and other key safety areas.
We know you’re probably hearing a lot of messages from your parents and guardians about things they want you to do, but the message about safe driving could save you and your friends’ lives. There’s a reason your parents are so strict when it comes to you getting behind the wheel: Surveys show that teens whose parents set firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors, and are involved in fewer crashes.
Now that you know the most important behaviors to follow to keep yourself safe, be sure to follow them every time you drive. And before you get behind the wheel, remember: Driving is a privilege, not a right. If you can’t follow the rules of the road, your parents have the power to take away the keys — and they should.
NHTSA’s website, www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving, has detailed information and statistics on teen driving, and the basic rules for you to follow to stay safe on the road.