Parents Play Key Role in Teens Safe Driving

“The Teen Driver” a policy update by the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages parents to not only act as good driving role models for their teens, but to play an active role in their access to and use of a car, and in their driving training. Parents play a key role in keeping their teens safe behind the wheel. 

According to AAP, the leading cause of death among teens is auto accidents, killing 5,500 young people each year.  Because of their age, adolescents don’t have the ability to make judgments quickly, especially if they drive fast.  And a 16- or 17-year-old driver has a 40 percent greater risk of an accident if they are driving with someone their age.  The risk doubles and quadruples when a teen drives with two to three peers.  Driving at night, especially when they are tired, have been using alcohol or drugs, or are driving fast, make almost 60 percent of fatal crashes occurring between 9 p.m. and midnight.

“The number one issue here is parental involvement,” said the policy’s lead author, Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, head of general pediatrics at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a member of AAP’s Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.  “We want parents to understand than young novice drivers – the 16- and 17-year olds – have some limitations in their abilities based on their age, so when parents place restrictions on their driving, that keeps them out of dangerous situations.”

The policy also recommends that parents:
♣    Insist that teens take a driver’s education course
♣    Encourage seat belt use
♣    Discourage distractions such as cell phone use, eating, drinking and music
♣    Discuss the dangers of alcohol and drug use with driving
♣    Make sure the car is in safe driving condition
♣    Understand the driving permit laws.  You can find Maryland’s at www.dmv.org/md-maryland/drivers-ed.php.
♣    Prepare a teen-parent contract that places restrictions on nighttime driving, the number of teen passengers, and other agreements.  A sample contract can be found at pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/118/6/2570 . Look under Appendix 2.
Jean Santiago writes about health-related issues.  She lives with her husband and two children in Bowie.