How to help young driv­ers stay safe on the road

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

Teenagers typ­i­cally an­tic­i­pate the moment they re­ceive their driv­ers’ li­censes, feel­ing their per­sonal free­dom in­creases dra­mat­i­cally in such mo­ments.

While driv­ers’ li­censes may be lib­er­at­ing for teen driv­ers, par­ents may be con­sid­er­ably less ex­cited when their chil­dren pass their driv­ers’ tests. Driv­ing is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity and one that re­quires both con­cen­tra­tion and ma­tu­rity. Seem­ingly in­no­cent things can turn plea­sur­able car rides into ac­ci­dents.

Although driv­ing ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, test­ing and prac­tice be­hind the wheel are re­quired be­fore kids can re­ceive their driv­ers’ li­censes, it takes more than classes, tests and lim­ited prac­tice for teens to be­come com­pe­tent driv­ers. The Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics says mo­tor ve­hi­cle crashes are the lead­ing cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds. Sta­tis­tics show that teen death rates in­crease with each ad­di­tional pas­sen­ger. Plus, ac­cord­ing to the In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety, 53 per­cent of mo­tor ve­hi­cle crash deaths among teenagers in 2012, the most re­cent year for data col­lec­tion, oc­curred on Fri­day, Satur­day or Sun­day be­tween the hours of 9 p.m. and mid­night.

Con­sid­er­ing one in five 16-year-old driv­ers has an ac- cident within their first year of driv­ing, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics com­piled by DoSome­thing.org, teen driv­ers may need more su­per­vi­sion and in­struc­tion. The fol­low­ing are some risks on the road to con­sider when ed­u­cat­ing teens.

• All calls are risky. Turn off phones when in the car. The Na­tional Safety Coun­cil says more than 30 stud­ies show hands-free de­vices are no safer be­cause the brain re­mains dis­tracted by the con­ver­sa­tion. When talk­ing on a cell phone, driv­ers can miss see­ing up to half of their sur­round­ings, in­clud­ing traf­fic lights, stop signs and pedes­tri­ans. Younger, less ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers may be even more dis­tracted by phone calls.

• Slow down. Crash risks for teens in­crease in­cre­men­tally with each mile per hour over the speed limit. Speed­ing re­duces driv­ers’ abil­ity to avoid an ac­ci­dent, and new driv­ers may not be as ca­pa­ble of avoid­ing ob­sta­cles that come into their paths.

• Go spar­ingly on pas­sen­gers. The risk for au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dents in­creases with each ad­di­tional pas­sen­gers teens have in their cars. The AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety found the risk in­creases 44 per­cent with one pas­sen­ger, dou­bles with two pas­sen­gers and quadru­ples with three or more pas­sen­gers. Friends in the back­seat can prove very dis­tract­ing or may even en­cour­age young driv­ers to en­gage in risky be­hav­iors.

• Avoid other dis­trac­tions. In ad­di­tion to phones and too many pas­sen­gers, teens are dis­tracted by look­ing things in their own ve­hi­cle. For ex­am­ple, singing and danc­ing to music can dis­tract teens’ at­ten­tion from the road. In ad­di­tion, some teens may tend to per­sonal groom­ing when be­hind the wheel, fur­ther tak­ing their at­ten­tion away from the road.

Get­ting a driver’s li­cense is a mile­stone event in the lives of teenagers, but one they should not take for granted. Good driv­ers are not born, but de­vel­oped through prac­tice, avoid­ing dis­trac­tions and ad­her­ing to the rules and reg­u­la­tions that gov­ern the roads.

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