Not So Fast
Honk if the thought of teen driving terrifies you.
You’re not alone—but, because there’s safety in numbers, we’re putting parents back in the driver’s seat with things to know about teens on the go.
Teens are high-risk motorists—and risk takers, too.
“Motor-vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens in America; almost half of teens killed in crashes are the drivers themselves,” reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which launched its new “5 to Drive” campaign to coincide with 2013’s National Teen Driver Safety Week. Cornerstones of the campaign ask teens to put the brakes on risky driving behaviors, like using cell phones, transporting extra passengers, speeding and driving while intoxicated, while green-lighting safety measures such as wearing seatbelts. After all, data doesn’t lie: The NHTSA further reports that of the 2,105 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2011, only 55 percent survived. If anything, it proves the point: Teen motorists, young men in particular, are more likely to engage in risky behavior on the road, violate traffic laws, hit the gas too hard, make dangerous passes, not operate their signals, and run red lights.
Teens are driven to distraction.
Teens driving with passengers are prone to peer pressure from the backseat, which promotes dangerously chancy conduct, like fiddling with electronic devices or glancing at video screens. So pervasive is the problem that the U.S. government has dedicated its own website to the issue, distraction.gov, which cites findings from the latest NHTSA studies, including: “Only about [one] out of [five] young drivers think that texting makes no difference to their driving performance.” At first you might think, well, one isn’t too awful. Given the number of teens on the road, however, and the math adds up—“one” is too many. Stave off distractions in the car by setting ground rules at home—discuss dangers and expectations, preset audio systems, and take teens out for a test drive to ensure that they not only exhibit a clear understanding of the rules of the road, but also stick to them. Also, limit nighttime driving, when sleep-deprived teens aren’t on high alert to identify hazards in a multitude of different driving environments. (Cars need curfews, too!)
Teens need time.
Just because a young motorist gets a driver’s license does not mean he is prepared to drive safely. Granite Bay’s Russell Postell, of R. Postell Insurance and Financial Solutions*, says, “Kids misjudge distance and speed. In our house, the rule for new drivers is you can only make a left turn at a major road at the light—and you must count to five before you start to go. I just hoped that it made them think a little longer before they darted out into oncoming traffic.” Remember, kids need oversight before keys.
Teens break rules their parents don’t know.
Many well-intentioned parents don’t know young drivers’ restrictions any better than their kids—among them, those regarding curfews and passengers. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a licensed parent, guardian, driving instructor or other driver age 25 or older must accompany a teen under the age of 18 with a provisional driver license when transporting passengers under age 20 anytime for the first year, and when driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Also—and this is a biggie—until age 18, teens are not legally authorized to use cell phones or any other electronic mobile device (even hands-free options!) to speak or text while driving.** Not only are teens subject to regulations set forth by the State of California, but also to the whims of Mom and Dad, so, advises Postell, “If you see them on the road, follow them to see how they are doing. It is not sneaky; it is being a concerned parent. You might have a tip that could save their life.” Here, his advice for parents of teen drivers:
- Give teens limits in the first three to six months. A car is not freedom to roam the world unattended.
- Have teens keep the car within 10 miles of home and not on highways for the first three months.
- Make teens communicate with you each time they are heading to a new location.
- Unless it is for family members, do not break the “no passengers for the first year rule.” It is the law. Make the law the bad guy.
- Do not break the 11 p.m. first-year rule. It is the law. Make the law the bad guy.
- When teens are driving, expand distance as needed—and at your discretion, not theirs.
- Keep a close watch on the weather when they venture out for longer drives.
* Securities offered through Farmers Financial Solutions, LLC Member FINRA & SIPC
**Check with the DMV with a full list of exemptions.