In fact crashes are by far the number one killer of teens in the U.S. – more than any other single factor such as drugs, suicide, violence or disease. You can add up the next 3 top causes of death and still not equal the number reached by motor vehicle fatalities. As of 2013, an average of 16 teens die every day in crashes.
The reasons that crashes are higher in teen drivers are multifaceted: experience, passengers in the vehicle, electronic distractions, night time driving, stressful driving conditions & weather are all part of the factors.
Looking at a few of these factors, passengers are very high on the risk list for teen crashes. In fact every passenger in the vehicle exponentially raises the potential for a crash- and not because passengers try to cause the driver to crash, but because teens are social and they want to interact; but that interaction leads to distraction, which coupled with inexperience increases their risk of missing vital signs of danger.
Likewise, teens today have never know a world without cell phones- and not just cell phones but smart phones that are capable of texting, surfing the web, posting on Facebook or twitter, taking photos and videos and watching Youtube or other video streaming sources- all while the car is in motion.
States attempt to combat these factors by having Graduated Drivers license provisions (GDL) that; restrict passengers in the first 6-12 months of driving, ban all electronic usage (especially cell phones), set curfews for night driving and require seat belt use for all passengers in the vehicle. Nebraska has all of these.
When you are driving in the presence of your teen, are you practicing what you teach? No cell phone/blackberry usage? No food or drink in your hands? Do you obey the posted speed limits and go even slower hen weather is a factor? Are you a calm and defensive driver, respectful of others on the road?
Like with drug prevention and your teen you are the biggest factor in their decision making processes- even if they do not admit it or show it. But they will also mimic your poor habits as well as their friend’s habits too. Consider this: how successful would you be in telling your teen to not take drugs if you are smoking a joint during the conversation? Likewise, how successful will you be if you use your cell phone, speed or disobey basic traffic and safety rules in the car while telling your teen that it’s not safe to do so?
What can I do for my teen driver?
Check bad habits at the door This is a good time to take inventory of your own driving habits so that your teen sees a rational, calm driver who eliminates their own distractions before setting on the road.
Change your busy message to say, “I am busy right now or I’m driving. Leave a message, follow my lead and don’t drive distracted.” Your simple act will change hearts and minds.
Eliminate Distractions Don’t bring food into the car and leave the radio off if you can. Make sure you don’t ever use a cell phone while you drive. Teach your teen that it’s not as important as being in control of the vehicle. If they know you do it, then why would they think it’s wrong?
Make a plan to drive with your teen on a regular basis and not just at age 16, but until they are out of their teens which is the highest peak time for fatal crashes for them in their lives. Going to school, down to the store or even on a short road trip, you can use the time to see if their skill are improving and if they are following the rules; or are they over confident/not confident enough; do they turn off their cell before they start and/or ignore it the entire ride; do they immediately put their seat belt on and turn the radio down low or off; do they speed when traffic around them does or disregard posted road signs; do they change lanes and park well. Use this time to observe/evaluate their current skill and give more instruction.
Show the safest routes Many times the fastest routes are the more dangerous ways for a newer driver to navigate. Showing your teen the safest routes can help them look for the safe route when they are on their own.
Explain the reasons for your choices whether it be a less traveled road with slower speed limits, intersections with a stop light instead of a stop sign- whatever the case is. Show them how they can find the safer way to get to their destination, even if it takes them a few minutes longer.
Be the parent You are ultimately responsible for the decisions your teen makes when they are driving- and they are likely driving your car and are on your insurance as well. The bottom line is that you control the privileges your minor enjoys and have to deal with their choices behind the wheel.
Even though your logic may not compute, explain to your teen why you might be restricting their driving privilege and what they need to do or show you in order to regain your trust. You cannot rely on your teen’s ability to think as calmly and rationally as you will.
Provisional Drivers License
A provisional Operators Permit (POP Driver License) is the first license you obtain as a new driver and it comes with inherent restrictions such as: 1) Passengers: no more than 1 under the age of 19 with you in the car 2) Night Driving: no driving after midnight; 3) No Use of ANY Electronics (cell phones, MP3 players, GPS) while driving; 4) Everyone in the car has to wear a safety belt.
Check out the provisional operator’s permit restrictions on the Nebraska DMV website.
Want to know what activity causes more distracted driving crashes than any other? If you were thinking that texting is the number one cause of distracted driving crashes, you would be wrong. Texting is one of the most dangerous driving activities to do while driving, but talking on a cell phone is much more prevalent among drivers and the duration of this activity typically spans the majority of the trip making it a much more common issue for the safety of other motorists.
It is also a common misconception that hands free devices are safer than holding the phone and talking; but the truth is that it has little to no effect on crash rates at all. There are over 30 independently reviewed studies that show that hands free/blue tooth devices do NOT reduce crashes caused by drivers using these devices to talk.
One reason for this it’s not necessarily the loss of mobility & dexterity from holding a phone that presents the most risk, it is the distraction caused by the conversation that decreases your senses, your awareness and your reaction times. The duration of the phone call is typically a good portion of the total car trip as well making the impairment span larger amounts of time in which the unexpected could occur and you need to quickly access and react.
How can this be you may ask? While you are talking on the phone you are also creating a mental image of the person(s) you are talking with; you are recalling time, data and events in the conversation and you are listening to their speech while simultaneously formulating a response and then waiting for your audible cues to say them. Conversations can be casual and light; or they can be intense and detail driven requiring your increased focus. If the conversation is important to you or heated for example, you may use more of your attention on the conversation rather than on moving the car forward, which is the “default mode” your brain engages in when you are driving and severely distracted.
This condition has been labeled as “inattentive blindness”, which is a big term for a common feeling that we all know to be true. When you simply talk on a phone from your chair in your home or office, or while walking down the street, attempt to concentrate on your conversation while at the same time widening your awareness of the details of your surroundings. You will notice that the sights, sounds and reaction to movement of objects around you is decreased as you switch between the details of a remote conversation and your present surroundings. It is the same when you drive. So when a driver rolls through a stop sign or light at an intersection and says, “I never saw the light” they are right; because their brain was tied up in a conversation and for that one, critical moment missed the cues that would normally be easy to recognize.
You can actually measure this effect by actively scanning the brain using fMRI while the subject is driving on a simulator, and then asking the subject to begin a phone conversation (see the brain scans to the right). The top brain is the subject simply driving and the red areas are the parts of the brain that are in use while doing that task. The brain below is a the subject, still driving on a simulator but a phone conversation is introduced- up to a 37% reduction in brain activity can be observed while the person concentrates on the details of the remote conversation.
Are you interested in taking a pledge?
Some consider signing a pledge to be a very powerful symbol of their commitment to take action on an issue or support an idea. No one needs a pledge to begin driving without a cell phone or other distractions but if it has weight with you, then you can click here and to get a personalized pledge with your name on it emailed to you, ready to sign, to show others that you are committed to be being a safer driver.