When it comes to teen drivers, it’s no secret that they have a bad reputation. All one has to do is type “teen driver” into a Google search and find dozens of articles related to texting while driving, accident statistics among younger drivers, and the list goes on.
Car manufacturers and independent companies alike are creating software to be installed in new vehicle models to help combat the dangers that come with a teen behind the wheel of a car. For example, General Motors recently released their active safety technology called Teen Driver. This software allows parents to view their teen’s driving habits and use the information to continue to coach their new drivers, even when they can’t be in the car.
Producing a report card at the end of each ride, Teen Driver reports the maximum speed reached, stability control events, forward collision alerts, and more. These categories touch on the biggest issue teen drivers face: inexperience.
While distracted driving does play a role in many of the teen-related accidents, inexperience is the underlying cause. According to a study done by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, lack of scanning the roadway, driving too fast for conditions, and distraction by something inside or outside the vehicle were the most common errors leading to a crash involving a teen driver.
With motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, this is something that parents, fellow drivers, and industry leaders alike must be looking into. And while campaigns like “Don’t Text and Drive” and innovative technology such as tXtBlocker have begun to chip away at the problem, in 2014 alone, 2,270 teens in the U.S. ages 16-19 were killed and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.
So what can parents do to help change the harsh realities of teen drivers on the road? First, they must take time to actually teach their child to drive. Studies show that the more the parent is involved when a teen is learning, the lower their chances are for a crash. While many states only require 50 hours or drive time before obtaining a license, parents should be striving to log more hours of time spent with them in the passenger seat, and their teen in the driver seat.
Secondly, both parents and non-parents alike can support local legislation to help achieve better road safety for everyone. AAA Arizona is advocating for Senate Bill 1080, which would prohibit teen drivers from the use of all wireless communication devices.
Arizona and Montana are the only two states that do not ban texting while driving for all or most motorists, so drivers can also rally for safer roads by pushing to eliminate texting while driving for all drivers, not just those in the teen age bracket.
Recent studies have found that teens who have been involved in a severe collision—defined as “police-reportable” and causing major damage, airbag deployment, injury or a rollover— experience an immediate change in their driving habits. In some cases, risky driving dropped by 34 percent.
The focus now, however, is to change the mentality of teen drivers before an accident ever occurs, and better teach and prepare them for the responsibility of operating a vehicle. Only then will we see a decrease in vehicle-related deaths for drivers of all ages.