Your teen’s driving can be safer, but some backbone is required

Tue, 10/25/2005 - 3:41pm
By: The Citizen

Tips from Autobytel’s ‘Take the Pledge to Slow Down’ Safe Driving Campaign

A set of wheels is every teen’s dream, and if your child has recently acquired a driver’s license, he or she is probably all revved up to drive to school this fall. But while your child is enjoying an exciting rite of passage, you’re probably suffering through a rough patch of anxiety and worry.

Parents have a right to be concerned. Traffic accidents are the #1 killer of American teenagers (representing 39 percent of all teenage deaths), and teenagers have the highest crash risk of any age group (about four times higher than older drivers).

Why? Inexperience and immaturity make young drivers far more likely to overestimate their driving ability while underestimating the dangers on the road, making them more likely to speed, tailgate, pass inappropriately, not wear their safety belts, and succumb to peer pressure.

Any parent knows that total control of a teen’s behavior is a pipe dream, but Autobytel’s “Take the Pledge” safe driving campaign wants parents to know there ARE practical ways to help make your teen’s ride considerably safer.

1. Don’t assume driver education equals a safe, capable driver.

Major studies reveal that high school driver ed. programs show little or no effect in reducing crashes. (In fact, they have an unintended negative effect on teen crash involvement by encouraging early licensing among 16- and 17-year-olds.) While it’s safe to assume that driver ed. helps with basic driving skills and rules of the road, most are simply too short, offering too little behind-the-wheel hours of experience, to be more than a basic driving primer.

2. Combine driver ed with a lot of parent-supervised driving practice.

Research shows that when parents take an active role in their teen’s driving education, their child’s chances of being in a crash can be reduced by one-third. So invest the time, and take an active, extended role in helping your teenager learn to drive. And remember, a crucial part of being a “driving instructor” is setting a good example: Teens with crashes and traffic violations often have parents with bad driving records.

3. Know and enforce Georgia’s graduated licensing laws.

In the mid-90s, most states enacted graduated licensing laws that delay full privileges until beginners are older and more experienced. Most states have core requirements such as no night driving after 9 to 10 p.m., zero alcohol tolerance, or rules preventing more than one young passenger with a beginning driver. Educate yourself on your state’s rules (log onto for handy reference) and enforce them as family rules.

4. Restrict, or ban, night driving and weekend driving.

The rate of fatal nighttime vehicle crashes is six times higher for teenage boys and three times higher for teen girls versus their adult (30-to-59-year-old) counterparts.

So set a household rule, or simply enforce your state’s graduated licensing laws re: night driving, to prohibit teens from driving much later than 9 or 10. You should also strongly consider restricting weekend driving, given that last year 54 percent of all teen deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

5. Restrict, or ban, letting kids drive around with friends.

Nearly half of the crash deaths involving 16-year-olds took place when beginners were driving with fellow teen passengers (while 59 percent of teen passenger deaths occurred in vehicles driven by another teen). And the crash risk rises incrementally with one, two, or three or more additional passengers. Many states’ licensing laws restrict beginners driving with other teen riders; but even if your state doesn’t, you should lay down your own rules to limit social driving.

6. Restrict, or ban, teen cell phone use while driving.

Eight percent of all young drivers used a hand-held cell phone driving during the day last year, compared to 5 percent in 2002, and 3 percent in 2000. This is a disturbing trend, given that drivers using phones are four times as likely to get into injury crashes, and the consequences are more extreme for young drivers. Make the message loud and clear: No driving and talking.

7. When you choose a car for a teenager, invest in safety features.

Roughly 90 percent of parents pass down a family vehicle, or purchase a used vehicle, for their teens. When choosing a vehicle, safety, and safety features, should be the #1 priority. (A good place to start is a Web site like, or where you can research crash test ratings on new and used vehicles.) Thankfully, most vehicles less than a decade old have air bags, although they were added to cars before trucks, so be sure to consult the owner’s manual, or the steering wheel or dash panel for markings like “SRS,” “SIR” or “SRS/Airbags.” Also look for anti-lock brakes (ABS) (standard in most late-model vehicles), which help young drivers maintain control during hard stops.

8. Choose a car with a sedate, not sporty image.

Kids obviously prefer cool, sporty cars, but it’s been shown that sports cars, muscle cars or vehicles with a high performance image encourage reckless driving and speeding. A basic family sedan, on the other hand, can reduce the chance that your teen will be involved in a crash.

10. Draw up and display a teen-parent driver contract.

A written pact creates an opportunity for your family to discuss, understand, and sign off on clear, ironclad safety rules with your child, including enforced seat belt use, a zero alcohol tolerance policy, and rules for driving with friends, night driving, speeding, etc. The written nature of the driving privileges contract makes it memorable; and if parents sign off on the same rules, kids will be more likely to respect the pact. In addition to this personal family pact, we encourage you and your young driver to log onto the link below and “Take the Pledge to Slow Down” together.

For comprehensive safe driving tips and articles, visit Autobytel’s “Take the Pledge to Slow Down” page at

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Submitted by Don Campbell on Sat, 11/05/2005 - 11:22am.

I never seem to hear about what I consider the #1 problem facing young teens learning how to drive safely.

That is the Parents who obliviously drive around town with their kids in the car while they drift through STOP signs (these signs don't say slow down) Speed through neighborhoods, not using turn signals every time and not knowing how to navigate 4 way stops just to name a few.

The Net result is that the example being set by Parents for how their teens drive is atrocious...

You reap what you sow....

And don't forget if you tailgate with your kids in the car you are in my humble opinion negligent...

Usually 15 years of watching parents drive will leave an indellible impression on what's OK and what's not.

This is where kids learn....take responsibility and make a good example for your child at any age.

Don Campbell

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