Teen drivers love opening the windows, feeling the breeze blow through their hair and blast the radio. An entirely new sense of freedom is earned when teen get their driver’s licenses, but with this new freedom also comes a major responsibility.
Safe driving habits, especially when friends are in the car, can prevent accidents and injuries.
Each year, 2,300+ teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in auto accidents and 300,000 have to be treated for injuries in the emergency room. Inexperience is a major contributing factor to teen accidents, but good decision making behind the wheel is possible if you adhere to safe driving recommendations.
Wear Your Seatbelt
Texas, and many other states, require that drivers wear seatbelts. Your passengers should also be wearing their seatbelts. The risk of death when wearing a seatbelt is reduced by 45% and serious injuries are reduced by 50%.
You always want to reduce the risk of accidents, but wearing a seatbelt is in your control and immediately lowers the risk of death or injuries.
Since most autos have a reminder when you’re not wearing a seatbelt, it’s almost impossible to forget to wear your seatbelt in newer vehicles.
Zero-tolerance for Alcohol
You and your friends should not drink and drive. A lot of teens go to parties, feel the pressure to drink a beer or two (or three), and they wrongly believe they’re sober enough to get behind the wheel.
Don’t take the risk of being impaired and driving.
You’ll put your life, your friends’ lives and the lives of other drivers at risk if you get behind the wheel after drinking. A lot of states have zero-tolerance laws for alcohol. You don’t want to lose your license or freedom to drive when you’ve only just earned them.
Don’t Overcrowd Your Vehicle
Vehicle overcrowding is popular among teens. When your friends need rides and you’re at the same party, movie or event, it’s hard to say “no” if someone asks for a ride. All of a sudden, people are sitting on each other’s laps and your vehicle which normally sits five people is now filled with eight people.
Studies show that when teens have passengers in their vehicles, they’re willing to take more risks and can be distracted more easily.
When three or more people are in the vehicle with a teen, the chances of a fatal crash rise 300% to 400%.
Limit Night Driving
Low visibility increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident at any age. Teens that drive at night are at a much higher risk of being involved in an accident. In 2010, it was found that 39% of teenager fatalities occurred between 9pm and 6am.
Roughly 24% of those accidents occurred after midnight.
Multiple factors are at play here, including:
- Low visibility
If you do have to drive at night, make sure you’re not suffering from fatigue and choose a route that is well-lit.
Be Smart in Bad Weather
Bad weather does not discriminate. Both seasoned drivers and new drivers who just passed their driving tests are at-risk of bad weather causing an accident. Teens have the benefit of being tech-savvy.
Download a local weather app and set up notifications that can help you deal with ice, snow, heavy rains, hail, tornadoes or even flash floods, which are common in Texas.
If you know severe weather is on its way, you can:
- Stay home
- Stay at a friend’s house
- Stay in a non-low-lying area
If you do have to drive through snow or ice, be sure to maintain or lower your speed limit. Do not drive into flooded areas because it’s easy to mistake a puddle for an actual flood.
When roads are blocked, do not go around the road signs and into danger.
As you continue to drive, you’ll learn maneuvers that you can use to prevent skidding on ice or hydroplaning on water. But the best course of action is to practice avoidance to lower your risks of an accident.
Keep Music Levels Moderate
Blasting the music and driving down the highway is almost a rite of passage for teens, but you need to be able to hear sirens and horns around you. If you live in a major city, like Houston, you’ll be in trouble if you can’t hear your surroundings.
It’s better to keep music levels moderate to be more aware of your surroundings.
Pets Shouldn’t Be Lap Passengers
Pets can be great companions in a car, but they can also be a danger. If you plan on driving with a dog, keep the dog in the backseat with a divider between you and the dog. Driving with a dog that’s loose, scared or in your lap is dangerous.
A dog that becomes frightened or that jumps into your lap is a major distraction and can quickly lead to an accident.
Put Down Your Phone
Distracted driving was a factor in 8.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities in 2019. If you’re at a stoplight, look around you and you’ll be sure to see people of all ages on their phones. A text message or notification can divert your attention long enough to cause an accident.
You should put your phone down when driving.
It’s tempting to send someone a Snap or to FaceTime someone while driving, but the risk is too high. You put your life and the lives of other drivers at risk when you’re driving and texting, taking pictures or trying to send someone a message on Instagram.
Apps can be downloaded and installed, which won’t allow you to use your phone when your vehicle is in motion.
If you have to make a call or text someone back, pull into a parking lot where you can safely park the vehicle and respond.
It only takes a second or two of distraction to get in an accident.
Teenagers deserve to make lifelong plans with their friends that they can keep. Safe driving is the key for you, as a teen and adult, to have fun and freedom without putting your life at-risk unnecessarily.