Remember all those stories a few years ago about how American teenagers had seemingly lost their interest in driving?
Well, brace yourself, because the latest Federal Highway Administration figures suggest they’re getting back behind the wheel.
The share of U.S. 16-year-olds with driver’s licenses fell from 46.2% in 1983 to 24.5% in 2014. But the government’s latest numbers show that teenage licensing rates had climbed to 26.3% of 16-year-olds by 2016.
Why be concerned? Because car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Per mile driven, teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal car crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Studies show the risk of a crash is especially high during the first months of having a license.
With all of that in mind, here are seven ways that Safe Kids Worldwide recommends will help you keep your teenage drivers safe.
- Everyone buckle up. That includes even passengers in the back seat. If you wear a seat belt, your kids are more likely to wear one as well. So if you never did it before, use your seat belt. Every time, every ride. Also, ask them to sign a formal driving contract with you. Ninety percent of teens with a contract wear seatbelts, while only 53% of those without one do.
- Zero tolerance for drinking or impaired driving. This might seem like a no-brainer but, for the record, there’s just no safe amount of alcohol a teen can drink before driving. Just as crucially, make sure you don’t drink and drive, either. Teens who have seen their parents drink and drive are three times more likely to do likewise.
- Limit the number of passengers in your teen’s car. This is especially important for male drivers. The more passengers, the greater the risk of a crash. Why? Because teens distract easily.
- Keep distractions to a minimum. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes from the road creates risk for everyone around them. That means no texting, talking on the phone or reading email while driving.
- Believe it or not, your teenager is watching as you set the example and the rules for your family car. Make sure you follow speed limits.
- Nighttime driving takes extra experience and skill. Teen drivers are three times more likely than adults to crash at night, so parents need to give their teen plenty of supervised opportunities to practice driving at night and in all kinds of weather and situations.
- Encourage them to speak up. Help your teens use the right words or have a plan for what to do if they feel unsafe in a car. This is a great scenario to play out in the safety of your kitchen. Give your teen multiple options for getting home safely.
Daniel Rizzo is a CCIG personal lines account manager. Reach him at DanR@thinkccig.com or 720-330-7905.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of risk with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.