As the holidays wind down, teens will be back out on the roads, heading to school, back to college, or to after-school jobs and extra-curricular activities. This time of year also brings wintery driving conditions, which can further endanger new and inexperienced drivers. This is a great time to sit down with your teen driver and have a conversation on the importance of understanding how to handle a vehicle in winter weather, as well as the six major “rules of the road.”
Before your teen driver heads out on the road, encourage him or her to check the weather conditions and traffic, and to plan their route accordingly. Stress the importance of driving slowly on slick or snow-covered roads. Remind them to increase the following distance between them and the car in front of them so they have plenty of time and room to stop if necessary.
Be Ready for an Emergency In case of an emergency, make sure your teen’s vehicle is properly stocked to help get them out of trouble or to keep them safe until help arrives. Keep items such as blankets, flashlights, jumper cables, flares, a snow shovel and ice scraper, and food and water in the vehicle during the winter months.
Passengers serve as a distraction for inexperienced teen drivers. That’s why many State graduated driver licensing (GDL) restrictions prohibit any passengers in a teen driver’s vehicle. Regardless of your State’s licensing rules, you should restrict the number of passengers your teen allows in their car.
Drive Sober or Not at All In 2017, nearly one out of seven teen (15-18 years old) drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking alcohol—even though it’s illegal in every State to drink alcohol under the age of 21. Make it clear to your teen that driving impaired by any substance—alcohol or drugs—is deadly and against the law.
Half of the 15- to 18-year-old passenger vehicle occupants who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 weren’t wearing their seat belts. When a teen driver involved in a fatal crash in 2017 wasn’t wearing a seat belt, 85% of their passengers who died were not wearing their seat belts either. Tell your teen driver that they must buckle up, every ride, every time.
About nine percent of all teen drivers (15-18 years old) involved in fatal crashes in 2017 were distracted at the time of the crash. Explain the dangers of driving distracted by phones and texting or anything else, and that driving attentively is essential for safe driving.
Speeding was a factor in almost one-third of all fatal crashes that involved a teen (15-18 years old) driver in 2017. Faster speeds rob inexperienced teen drivers of the extra reaction time they may need to avoid a crash. Emphasize that they must obey posted speed limits.
Between school, sports, activities, and part-time jobs, a teen’s schedule can cut into much needed sleep, which can lead to drowsy driving. People are most likely to feel drowsy between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., which is generally when teens are driving home from school. Explain the dangers of driving drowsy before your teen driver takes the wheel.
Don’t Just Set the Rules—Set the Example You’re a role model. When a teen driver sees you obeying the rules of the road, they get the message. If you’re not, they adopt those behaviors when on the road themselves. Check yourself: assess how you’re driving and think about what your driving communicates to your teen driver. Keep the conversation about safe driving habits going year-round. If you do, you’ll not only better protect your young driver, you’ll be contributing to safer roads in your community. For even more information, visit our Teen Driver page.