Traffic safety officials offer guidelines for safe teen driving

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The Department of Transportation has launched a new push to get parents and teens to talk more about safe driving as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs through Saturday.

Parents also should model safe-driving habits for their teens if they want to make an impression, safety officials said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,963 drivers between the ages of 15 to 20 died and an additional 187,000 young drivers were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2010. One out of 10 drivers involved in a fatal crash was someone between the ages of 15 and 20.


“Immaturity, inexperience, and a penchant for risk-taking are the major reasons for high crash and fatality rates among teen drivers,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “In addition to comprehensive state graduated driver licensing systems and strong bans on teen cellphone use and texting while driving, parents who are involved throughout the learning-to-drive process are vital in creating safe and prepared young drivers.”

As part of the congressionally designated week, NHTSA released the following tips for parents of teen drivers.

  • Understand the graduated driver licensing laws in your state. Each state has a different set of restrictions, but the graduated system has reduced teen accidents, NHTSA said. Be sure you know how many supervised driving hours a teen in your state needs to obtain a license and make sure your child meets that requirement. Requiring your potential driver to make a written log of hours spent behind the wheel is a good method of fulfilling the requirement, according to safety experts.
  • Have a family parent-teen driving contract that sets ground rules and creates consequences of breaking those rules.
  • Bar the use of electronic devices such as smartphones while driving. In 2010, 368 teen drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were distracted, accounting for 13% of all fatal distraction-affected crashes.
  • Limit teen passengers and night driving. Many of the graduated licensing laws do the same. A NHTSA analysis found teen drivers were 2½ times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer compared with when driving alone. Most nighttime fatal crashes of young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. NHTSA recommends a maximum of one passenger in the car with your teen at all times and nighttime driving restrictions starting no later than 10 p.m.
  • Buckle up. This is something all drivers should do regardless of age. NHTSA said three out of five 16-to-20-year-old occupants killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing seatbelts in 2010.
  • Have the alcohol talk. Don’t be naïve about teen drinking. In 2010, 22% of the young drivers involved in fatal crashes were drinking. Also talk about the risk of being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who has been drinking.


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