The 12 Biggest Dangers to Teen Drivers

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Teens are at the highest risk for injury and death from car accidents. Teens tend to underestimate hazardous driving situations and they are less able than older drives to recognize dangerous situations.

Becoming aware of the biggest dangers to teen drivers provides you with an opportunity to teach your teen how to avoid these hazards. Understanding the reasons teens commonly get into crashes can also assist you in establishing driving rules for your teen.

Establishing Rules for Teens

1. Inclement Weather

Weather conditions like rain, snow, and even fog can amplify risks for inexperienced drivers. Sometimes teens aren’t aware of the need to increase following distance or reduce their speed in inclement weather.

2. Nighttime Driving

Driving at night poses challenges for inexperienced drivers. Poor visibility, fatigue, and greater increase of driver impairment likely contribute to the high crash rate at night. Approximately 40% of all fatal crashes involving teens occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

3. Driving with Teen Passengers

Driving around other teen passengers can be a big distraction. Sometimes teens experience peer pressure to “drive faster” and other times, a teen may want to show off for friends. Many states have implemented laws that restrict newly licensed drivers from transporting other teens for this reason.

4. Distracted Driving

Cell phones, radios, and food often serve as distractions for young drivers.

Despite commercials and campaigns warning teens of the dangers of distracted driving, 41% of American teens admit to texting or emailing while driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Texting isn’t the only way cell phones pose risks. Dialing a cell phone or reaching for a dropped cell phone may also pose major safety risks.

5. Not Using Seatbelts

Young people remain the biggest offenders when it comes to not wearing seatbelts. In 2008, only 80% of 16 to 24 year olds reported wearing a seatbelt, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2009, 56% of 16 to 20 year olds involved in fatal car crashes were not wearing seatbelts.

6. Speeding

Driving too fast is a major problem, especially among adolescent males. Among the males between the ages of 15 and 20 who were involved in fatal car crashes, 39% were speeding, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Sometimes teens simply enjoy taking risks and they view themselves as immune from fatal consequences.

Why Teens Engage in Risky Behavior and What Parents Can Do About It

7. Tailgating

Not leaving enough following distance leads to a large number of car accidents for teens. Sometimes teens don’t recognize the need to slow down and leave plenty of room between them and the car in front of them.

8. Insufficient Scanning Ahead

Inexperienced drivers are sometimes guilty of only looking directly in front of the vehicle.

When they don’t scan far enough ahead down the road, they miss hazards in the roadway, such as pedestrians, animals crossing the road, or even traffic lights.

9. Substance Use

Despite many public safety initiatives to educate teens on the dangers of using drugs and alcohol while driving, many teens don’t heed the warnings. Approximately 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in deadly car accidents tested positive for alcohol, according to a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2012 report showed that 1 in 10 teens drinks and drives. Many teens underestimate the risks of using other substances, such as prescription drugs and marijuana while driving as well.

10. Driving While Tired

Many teens are sleep-deprived and they’re at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Teens who get less than eight hours of sleep are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.

11. General Driver Inexperience

The first year after getting a driver’s license is the riskiest time of all. The only way to improve driving ability is to gain more time behind the wheel. It’s important for parents to provide plenty of supervision and learning opportunities to help teen drivers gain more knowledge and experience.

12. Summer Driving

The summer months are the most common time of year for teen fatalities. The Fourth of July has been named the deadliest day for 16 and 17-year-old drivers, according to reports from AAA, based on data compiled from 2006 to 2010. June 10, May 20, August 14, and September 26 were also reported as being the days with the highest teen driver fatalities. When the weather is nice, teens may be more likely to be celebrating with friends and driving later in the evenings, which may place them at more risk for deadly crashes.

Check out these ideas to help keep your teen safe behind the wheel:

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