To most parents, there is nothing more terrifying than letting a teenager get his or her license and start driving. Parents tend to imagine every possible worst-case scenario – the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, a drunk driver hits the teen’s vehicle – and really, they have cause to worry.
A new report states that auto accidents are actually the number one killer of teenagers in the United States, beating out both homicide and suicide. The study, which was funded by the General Motors Foundation, says that both drivers and passengers are at risk.
The report was mostly based off a national survey that looked at 1,000 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19. According to the report’s findings, 2,439 teenagers died in 2012 due to auto accidents on U.S. roads. Of those teenagers, about 56 percent of them were driving at the time, and 44 percent of them were passengers at the time. The study also found that more than half of those killed did not put on a seat belt.
Before you go and take away your child’s driver’s license, remember that this study is totaling the amount of teenagers dead in auto accidents overall. This includes accidents where adults were driving or accidents involving drunk drivers. The study did not research any correlation between texting and calling to the accidents either, but it should be noted that about 40 percent of teenagers in a poll said they had ridden with another teenager who was using the phone while driving.
In fact, adults too are guilty of using their phones while driving. Of those teens polled, half of them said that they had driven with an adult who was using his or her cell phone.
Interestingly, only about 10 percent of teenage passengers said they had driven with a teenager under the age of alcohol or drugs.
While you cannot protect your child from all auto accidents, you can do your best to ensure that they are not driving while texting or doing other unsafe practices while behind the wheel. Need some pointers on how to talk to your children about driving safety? Here’s how:
- Make sure they know distracted driving is never okay: Firmly establish the rule for driving, which should include never using a cell phone for texting and only calling in emergencies. You should have some sort of punishment in line should your child break the rule. Be very clear and stand your ground.
- Teach them about the consequences: Show your child just how expensive even speeding tickets can be and remind them that if pulled over, he or she will be paying for the ticket. Make sure they know how much violations for distracted driving can cost.
- Set a good example: Your teen is watching, even when you think they are playing with their phones in the passenger seat. If you pull out your phone and start texting while driving, you are setting a bad example. How can you not expect your teen to do the same?
The best defense we have against auto accidents is teaching our children how to drive safely. Make sure your child is enrolled in an accredited driving course, and spend plenty of time practicing with them. When they drive with you, hand them your phone, and when you need directions, ask your teen to punch in the address. Show your teen that safe driving is the best driving.