Safety Tips for Parents of Teen Drivers
For many teens, the summer months can mean many things, including a chance for them to take a driver’s training class or get experience behind the wheel. But once school is over for the year, that extra free time means the beginning of a risky time of year for teen drivers. The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day has been dubbed the 100 Deadliest Days of summer because of the increased risk of fatal car accidents involving teenagers.
AAA reports that between 2008 and 2018, over 8,300 people died in car accidents involving teen drivers. Car accidents are also the leading cause of teen deaths, according to the NHTSA. Given the risks inexperienced drivers face, it’s only natural for parents to feel a bit stressed about the idea of letting them have the keys to the car. If your teen is looking forward to building their driving skills this summer, here are a few things parents can do to help keep them safe while they build their skills.
Set a Good Example
One of the most effective ways to make sure your teen adopts good, safe driving habits is to act as a positive role model in that regard. Even though your teen is approaching adulthood, they still look to their parents for examples of how to handle everyday situations and that includes driving. When you drive, make sure you do things like watch your speed, wear your seatbelt, avoid all forms of distractions, and don’t drive if you’re drowsy or under the influence of alcohol. It’s always a good time to change unsafe driving habits, but the longer you’re able to set a positive driving example, the more likely it is your teen will follow your lead.
Do Your Part to Prevent Distractions
When your teen is out on the road by themselves, it can be tempting to call to check in to make sure everything is okay. Or if you’re out with your teen while they practice their driving, you might find yourself trying to carry on conversations as they drive. But remember, even though your intentions are good, it’s extremely important that they be able to focus on the road. Try to limit in-car talk to things directly related to driving. And if you know your teen is driving, don’t assume they will ignore the phone if you call or text. They might feel like a call or text from a parent is something they need to respond to right away.
Set Limits on Passengers
Passengers can potentially be a distraction to drivers of all ages, but they can be particularly distracting for teen drivers. A lot of teens want to be able to drive around and have fun with their friends, but according to AAA, 15% of distracted driving car accidents involving teenagers are caused by interacting with one or more passengers. That means passengers cause more distracted driving car accidents for teens than using a cell phone or music.
If your teen gives you a hard time about not letting them drive with friends, remind them that it’s what the law requires. Many states have graduated driver licensing (GDL) requirements that put restrictions on how many passengers teen drivers can have in the car at a time for this very reason. Here in Michigan, a teen with a Level 1 license can only drive with a parent or another licensed adult who is at least 21 years old. Teens with a Level 2 license are only allowed to drive with 1 passenger in the car who is under the age of 21 unless the other passengers are immediate family members; there is a parent or other licensed adult at least 21 years old in the car at the time; they are driving to, from, or as part of work; or are driving to or from an authorized activity like school, an extracurricular activity, a religious activity, or to get help in an emergency situation. Once a driver has a Level 3 license, they are able to drive without restrictions on passengers.
Know the Rules — And the Consequences
Passenger restrictions aren’t the only limits teen drivers need to keep in mind. In Michigan, there are also restrictions on nighttime driving and cell phone use teen drivers need to follow. Michigan teen drivers with a Level 2 license are not allowed to drive between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM unless they are accompanied by a parent or other licensed adult at least 21 years old, are driving to or from work, or for another authorized activity. Teens with Level 1 and Level 2 licenses also both have restrictions on cell phone use. Under Kelsey’s Law, teens with these levels of licenses are not allowed to initiate a phone call, answer a phone call, or listen to/engage in any kind of verbal communication through a cell phone.
Make sure your teen knows the rules they need to follow and what the consequences are if they are caught not following those requirements. Not only are there consequences for violations that could delay moving forward in the GDL process, as a parent, you also have the ability to limit (or take away) a teen’s driving privileges if you catch them violating these restrictions or acting in other unsafe ways. Remember, these restrictions aren’t arbitrary or enacted to take away the fun of having a license — they’re put in place with safety in mind.
Utilize Teen Driver Car Features
If you have a newer car, does it have any features added specifically for teen drivers? If so, it’s a good time to get out your car’s manual and familiarize yourself with what exactly those features are and how they can be used. Teen driving modes can vary between car manufacturers, but some common features include alerts about seatbelt use, limits on the volume of the radio, blocking teens from deactivating safety features, and providing “report cards” that include information like top speeds driven and distance driven.
Just because teen drivers are new to driving, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re at fault if they’re injured in a car accident. Good drivers of all ages can have their life disrupted by the actions of a negligent driver. If your teen has been injured in an accident, don’t hesitate to contact a car accident lawyer. When teen drivers are injured, an insurance company could try to take advantage of that inexperience and try to intimidate them into admitting fault when they did nothing wrong. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer experienced in handling Michigan auto accident cases, Contact us today for help with your case.
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