Monday, October 17, 2016

Teen Driver Safety Week

It sometimes seems like there are "weeks" or "days" for all sorts of things, most of them them the creation of some marketing mind trying to get attention for a product or event. But this week's commemoration of Teen Driver Safety Week is one event that no parent should ignore. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. To put the issue in context, the CDC provides the following statistics: In 2014, 2,270 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes; six teens ages 16–19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries.

In 2013, young people ages 15-19 represented only 7% of the U.S. population. However, they accounted for 11% ($10 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration focuses on five most significant risks when teens are at the wheel, and has created a "5 to Drive" campaign to address these: 
  • alcohol use
  • not wearing seat belts
  • distracted driving
  • speeding 
  • extra passengers, especially other teens
There are a number of steps parents can take to reduce the risks when their teens drive. Our colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have looked at the risk factors noted above and add a few of their own: nighttime driving, driving older vehicles, driving by teens who do not have a license, and unmedicated ADHD. They propose solutions which involve both parents and teens, including graduated driving laws, restrictions on nighttime driving and carrying passengers, and zero tolerance for alcohol use by teen drivers. 
Both the AAP and the American Automobile Association urge parents of teen drivers to consider entering into a contract with their children, first discussing the many factors that impact safe driving and then coming to an agreement about how and when their child should be operating a motor vehicle and what the consequences will be for any infractions. The AAP also offers links to information for parents about their role in safe teen driving and to clear, colorful charts (good for sharing with your teen) showing how different risk factors can affect teen driving safety.

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