Teens across Highlands County have started their summer holiday from the rigors of school. Not only will some be learning to drive for the first time, but with school out, others will have more time for joyriding. This combines for an increased risk of traffic crashes.
We are now well into the summer months that constitute the 100 deadliest days on the road for teens. Cold, hard facts reflected in a press release from AAA motor club show that from Memorial Day through the end of August, an average of 261 teens die during each of the summer months in traffic crashes. That is a 26 percent increase compared to the rest of the year.
Parents can be instrumental in helping their teen be a safe driver –– and not become a statistic. Teens are more carefree and excited to have the freedom to drive around this time of year. So it’s imperative parents help keep safety a top priority.
Studies have shown risky driving behavior, traffic violations and crashes to be lower among teens whose parents set limits on their initial driving privileges. Listed below are a few tips for parents to help keep their teen drivers safe.
• Restrict driving and eliminate trips without purpose. Based on amount of miles driven, teens have three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. It comes as no surprise that a teen’s crash risk is highest during the first year of solo driving. Parents should limit teen driving to essential trips and only with parental permission the first year of driving.
• Become an effective driving coach. The best way for new teen drivers to gain experience is through parent-supervised practice driving where parents can share their wisdom accumulated over many years of experience. Even after a teen has a license that allows solo driving, parents and teens should continue to practice driving together to help the teen manage increasingly more complex and challenging driving conditions.
• Limit the number of teen passengers and time as a passenger. Teen crash rates increase with each teen passenger in the vehicle, according to experts. Fatal crash rates for 16- to 19-year-olds increase fivefold when two or more teen passengers are present versus when teens drive alone. Parents should set rules against driving with teen passengers; and restrict their teens from riding as a passenger with a teen driver.
• Restrict night driving. Statistics say a teen driver’s chances of being involved in a deadly crash doubles when driving at night. Many parents limit driving during the highest-risk late night hours, but safety during any night hours should be stressed. More than half of nighttime crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight.
• Establish a parent-teen driving agreement. Many parents and teens find that written agreements help set and enforce clear rules about night driving, passengers, access to the car, and more. AAA offers a parent-teen driving agreement on its teen driver safety website, TeenDriving.AAA.com.
Summer “cruising” is a time-honored tradition in Highlands County. Hundreds of miles of rural roads offer a seemingly endless choice of places to learn to drive or to hone those new skills. But, of course, these new drivers want their friends to see them behind the wheel.
Yes, we live in a mecca for young drivers, but caution and safety should never be an afterthought as our children and grandchildren take the steering wheel. Let’s heed the suggestions of traffic experts and strive to keep our newest drivers safe and accident free.