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Teen Driver Safety

Randy DeVaul

Posted on March 23, 2019 12:03

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Teen drivers have three times the vehicular fatal crashes than all other ages combined. Inexperience, peer pressure and various levels of maturity development encourage teens to prove they have driving skills they do not have while parents are challenged to help their teens stay alive. Whether driving or riding, teens need help in recognizing driving hazards.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen crashes make up three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers combined.

The top causes of teen driving fatalities are inexperience and immaturity combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving (cell phone use, loud music, other teen passengers, etc.), drowsy driving, night driving, and other drug use. In New York, I am grateful that as a parent the law states that any licensed driver under 18 years of age cannot drive with more than one non-family member being in the vehicle. 

I am not prepared to state that all teen drivers are ‘bad.’ I am stating that it is far easier to become distracted at the wheel of a vehicle when there are a number of teens in a car. Coupled with peer pressure, the competitive nature of having to prove you are a better driver than your peers, and the sheer immaturity and lack of driving experience can come together and spell disaster, even for the best-behaved kids.

It is a shame that schools in Western New York no longer provide drivers’ education classes for high school students. If public safety and student safety were truly an important factor in how schools select (and defund) courses, drivers’ ed would still be available. I would prefer to have my school tax dollars applied to a life-long and life-saving course before having it used for ‘movie days’ when the teachers can’t seem to find anything applicable to offer during those school days. But I digress.

Parents – help your kids make better choices when learning to drive and when finally licensed to drive on their own.

1)      Encourage seatbelt use. You may have to do this by setting your own example and wearing your seatbelt when you get in the vehicle. At the ‘permit’ level, don’t let your teen move the vehicle until you have observed him or her buckle up. Sure, you can save some money on a ticket by not having to worry about getting caught not wearing a seatbelt. As a 25+ year emergency responder, though, I can tell you that the ticket after the fatality really isn’t such a big deal.

2)      Talk about alcohol and driving. Teens are at far greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash than the overall population, despite the fact that they are below the minimum drinking age in every state. Among 15 to 20 year old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006, 31 percent of the drivers who were killed had been drinking and 77 percent of these drivers were unrestrained.

3)      Respect speed. Most 16 year old driving fatalities are single-vehicle crashes, meaning only one car was involved.  The cause? Losing control due to excessive speed.

Teen driving is a responsibility and an earned privilege, not an entitlement. Help your kids learn by setting the example and talking openly with them about driving safely.

Randy DeVaul

Posted on March 23, 2019 12:03

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Two teens were driving their respective vehicles at high speed, weaving in and out of traffic before the fatal crash.

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