As a parent, you probably have mixed emotions about your teenage child starting to drive. I know I sure do.
We have a 16-year-old son who has decided that the time has come for him to learn to drive. He has had his learners permit for over a year but has not shown a lot of interest in driving. I think that may be common today with the advent of cell phones and the constant texting. Kids are so connected with their friends; they visit more in virtual space than in person. That’s been a good thing for our family, because I was not excited about him getting behind the wheel. We are excited about getting out of the taxi cab business but concerned about his safety and that of other drivers on the roads.
In the National Young Driver Survey conducted by State Farm and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 5,665 students shared their views of teen driving. Evidence from this survey shows four risk factors cause 84 percent of teen crashes.
Inexperience is the first factor. Every teenager is different, but the one thing they all share in common is inexperience. About two-thirds of fatal teen crashes involve driver error — making mistakes due to inexperience and distractions. Teens needs at least 6-12 months of solo driving before they start giving friends a ride. Friends should give the new driver time and space to learn to drive before pressuring them for rides, and never encourage risky driving.
Distraction is the second factor. A teen driver’s fatal crash risk increases by three to five times if there are two or more passengers in the car. A driver who talks on a mobile phone is four times more likely to be involved in a serious crash, regardless of whether the driver uses a hands-free cell phone. Be aware of the changing road by keeping your eyes and mind on the road.
Speed is the third factor. The faster you drive, the longer it takes you to stop. Speed is involved in approximately 38 percent of fatal crashes involving male drivers ages 15–20. Speed limits on the road were set for perfect driving conditions.
Fatigue is the fourth. The effects of driving while tired are similar to the effects of drinking and driving. Three-fourths of teens report having seen other teens driving noticeably tired. Drivers younger than 25 years cause the majority of drowsy driving-related crashes. Rest up when you are tired from studying or extracurricular activities.
One other factor can lead to a crash and even fatal injury: lack of seat belts. Teens who do not wear seat belts in all seating positions are more likely to wind up in the crash statistics. Wear a seat belt every time you ride in a car.
You can learn more about teen driver safety at www.statefarm.com/teendriving. Also, talk with an insurance professional about safety programs that can help you become a safer driver, and help save some money, too.
Wayne Scroggins, the president and owner of Scroggins Insurance Agency, 6505 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 795-1500.