I also know that every time she drives, anything can happen. It could be caused by another motorist. Or by vehicular malfunction. Or by anything like a falling tree or a landslide.
But many accidents are preventable and preventing them should mainly come from us, individual drivers, and if we are careful, we will avoid most of them. For instance, by practicing defensive driving.
But for this discussion, we will focus on teen driving and how to minimize teen driving risks for our kids.
A driver's license is one of the most easily attained documents in the United States. In most states, new drivers need only pass a vision test and a written exam based on knowledge of traffic safety rules to obtain a learner's permit. Then with a minimum of behind the wheel practice, a young person can easily pass the requirements for an unrestricted license. Now she's off to teen driving, whether she's ready or not.
We also know that a teen can overestimate his ability to drive or by peer pressure may be inclined to show off his new driving skill.
Driving is an essential part of American life. Driving a car provides a freedom of mobility and here in America with millions of miles of paved roads, an unequaled capacity to drive to any destination. Driving can be fun or hectic, business-related or recreational. But most importantly driving can be, and every year is, fatal for almost 50,000 Americans. Be aware of the causes of teen driving accidents. Teen driving is to be taken seriously.
Nationally there are approximately 18.1 auto-related deaths per 100,000 people. However, when these figures are broken down by age, one group stands out. Male drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 years old have 48.2 auto-related deaths per 100,000 population, a rate 2 1/2 times the national average. These figures suggest that, although overall improvement is necessary, teen driving by young male drivers should be targeted as a group that needs increased attention.
The risks are substantial: At 16 years, teen driving inexperience leads to 43.2 crashes per million miles driven. (By contrast "veteran" 17-year-old drivers experience 30.3 crashes per million miles.)
Then, of course, there are the many innocent victims who die in car crashes with teens each year. "Teen crashes have become an epidemic," says McMurray. "Teens are risk takers." Of those involved in crashes in 2000, 36 percent of teens had been drinking, and 58 percent were speeding at the time of the crash, according to the NHTSA. "They think they are immortal," says McMurray.
Dennis Doverspike, PhD, a professor of psychology who studies teen risk-taking attitudes at the University of Akron in Ohio, echoes McMurray's sentiments. "It takes several years for driving to become an automatic response and teens don't have these years of experience under their belts," he says. Most teens never have to practice driving in inclement weather or high-speed traffic before getting a license, says Doverspike, and "When placed in one of these situations, they don't know how to respond. Add to that raging hormones and you've got yourself one inexperienced and distracted driver."
Why are teens the worst drivers? Why should we, as adults, be aware of the hazards of teen driving. Because too many are easily distracted risk-takers. All too often, they fail to see a dangerous situation developing as they fiddle with radio dials, get swept away by their favorite songs, or pay more attention to their passengers than to oncoming traffic.
Another reason teens experience a higher percentage of crashes is simply that many have had little road experience, especially on dark, rainy nights and on slick streets.
Automobile companies have made great improvement in car safety with seat belts, shoulder straps, headrests, air-bags, padded dashes, safety glass, collapsible steering columns, controlled crush characteristics, anti-locking breaks and a host of other less recognized improvements. Highway improvements have similarly decreased accidents and deaths and efforts to remove intoxicated drivers from the roads should offer similar improvements. But there's the male teenage driver which skews traffic accident statistics open to discussion.
Some teen driving sobering facts and suggestions:
Automobile insurance companies report that from a statistical standpoint, teen driving deaths frequently occur:
We parents can do a lot to make our teens more responsible drivers. Teenage driving accidents are on the rise and we can do something about it.
"When parents supervise their teens' behind-the-wheel behavior, teens tend to be much more responsible," says Rose McMurray, associate administrator for traffic safety programs at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Here are her tips for parents of teen drivers and reduce teen driving anxiety:
Be a good role model. Always wear your seatbelt, never use your cell phone while driving, and don't be an aggressive driver.
Insist your teen wear a seatbelt. Statistics show that 50 percent of all teens who died in car crashes last year were not wearing them.
Remind your teen that a car can be a weapon and driving is a privilege, not a right. "A car can kill someone. If it's not being used responsibly, it should be taken away," says McMurray.
Restrict night and weekend driving. It is estimated that teens crash more often after 11 p.m. on weekdays and after midnight on weekends.
Make sure your teen knows that it's okay to call you if she's in trouble and needs a ride home. Tell her that you won't be angry or upset, no matter what.
Drive with your teen occasionally. You'll get a firsthand view of his weaknesses behind the wheel.
Talk to your teen about car insurance. McMurray says that since most teens don't pay their own car-insurance bills, "They don't realize that the bills escalate with each driving infraction."
Restrict the number of passengers in your teen's car. Remember that the more friends your teen is carrying, the greater the risk of an accident.
Be prepared to take away the keys. "Not every teen is ready for the responsibility of teen driving," says McMurray. "It's up to a parent to know when to say 'No.'"
Limit teens' driving during peak accident season, which begins in June, when your teen gets out of school, and runs through Labor Day weekend.
Write to your local state representative about strengthening teen driving laws. "It's a great way to lay the groundwork for safety," says McMurray. "And if you get your teen involved in the process, it's one more way to show him how to be responsible."
Driver's education is recommended by many insurance companies. These courses have been demonstrated to decrease the frequency of accidents among those that have taken them.
For the first 3 to 6 months after obtaining a driver's license:
"Can I have my own car?" I still have a lot of memories about her as a child, she acts carelessly still, and on many occasions acts like a child, maybe unconsciously. Yet, with those words, she declared her independence. And although, I would like to treat her as my little baby, I knew that a time will come when she will tell me that she's ready for the real world on her own. This time, the sometimes crazy traffic of Southern California where teen driving will be tested.
But if I want my daughter to arrive home safely every time she drives, I have to teach her strong lessons about values, responsibility, budgeting and other skills. And all those start with her first car. I also know that putting her name in my auto policy will increase my premium. Teen driving could be expensive.
But my overriding concern as a parent is for her safety. Teen driving results show that they are involved in four times as many crashes per million miles driven as other drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and more of them are caused by driver error than alcohol.
Safety is mainly a factor of the driver, not the car, so the IIHS doesn't necessarily advocate bigger cars for young drivers. Instead, it favors gradually reducing driving restrictions for teens, rather than tossing the keys and turning your back. A curfew is a good idea -- 43 percent of teen traffic deaths occur between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Teen driving should be restricted.
I also know that when my daughter starts to drive, she will test my resources -- both emotional and financial. So I am aware that I need to pass along driving tips to her whenever we are in the same car together. I might even want to have her hands a little dirty and check the car over when we stop for gas so she'll know how it works. Teen driving has its privileges but also responsibilities.
You as a parent, an older brother or sister, an aunt, or as a guardian can go a long way in ensuring the safety of your teen loved ones. Empower them when you let them drive on our roads. Don't let them become just one of the traffic statistics of our highways. Make their teen driving a lot safer.