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Car crashes are the leading cause of accidental deaths for teenagers in the U.S. This is why, when you hand over the keys to your teen, you want to know that you have done everything possible to protect them – including putting them in a safe vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a report that suggests that not all vehicles are created equal when it comes to the safety of teen drivers.
As a parent, there’s nothing quite as nerve-wracking as seeing your teen pull out of the driveway for the first time without you in the vehicle. But rather than allowing the fear to serve no purpose, you can direct your concerns into helping to keep your child safe.
Auto accidents involving teen drivers are preventable, and parents play an important role in ensuring that teens adopt safe driving practices. If you or your teen has been injured in a car accident, call our teen driving accident law firm today!
The National Safety Council reports the most dangerous time of a teen’s life is the first 12 months of having a driver’s license. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Inexperienced teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident than adults. When they have three or more teen passengers, that risk is quadrupled.
Most accidents involving teens are caused by inexperience. As a matter of fact, 75% of teen crashes are due to “critical errors,” according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. These errors include: lack of scanning the road, going too fast for conditions, and being distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle.
Teen Auto Accidents
There are things parents can do to keep teens safe during their first months behind the wheel. New drivers may not like restrictions, but these safety precautions could save their lives.
In 2010, 11 percent of teen drivers who died in car accidents were distracted at the time of the crash. Phone calls, text messages, and even typing an address into a GPS app can take your attention away from the road and lead to a serious crash.
A recent study found that simply reaching for a cellphone is a major distraction. Reuters recently reported on research finding that teen drivers face accident risks 8.3 times higher when dialing a phone, 8 times higher when reaching for an object, 7.1 times higher when reaching for a cell phone, and 3.9 times higher when sending or receiving a text. Eating and drinking also increase accident risk.
The solution to these distractions is simple: Remove the cellphone from the equation. When the engine starts, the cellphone should be placed in the glove box or powered down. Though teens won’t like this rule, it’s for their own safety.
Tips For Safety On The Roads
As any parent can attest, handing over the keys to your teen driver can bring about mixed feelings. While you likely want to encourage them to enjoy their newfound independence, you are also concerned about their safety on the road. Parents of teen drivers have good reason to worry. Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents than any other age group.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), roughly eight teen drivers (ages 16-17) are treated in New York hospitals every day due to car crashes. Eight teens in the same age group die each day from injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes across the U.S. More than 350,000 teens are sent to emergency rooms with injuries sustained in collisions each day.
However, as a parent, there is no need to panic. Your teen can follow specific driving practices that will help to keep the teen on the roads and could even help to lower insurance rates (as long as he or she maintains a clean driving record). As a parent, you have a responsibility to set a good example for your teen driver and make sure to talk to him or her about safe driving practices.
Here are five items that you should talk with your teen about on a regular basis:
Turn Your Phone Off
Several studies have shown that using a smartphone (even in hands-free mode) while driving is equivalent to driving while under the influence of alcohol. If reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for at least five seconds, and you are going 60 mph, you may travel the length of a football field – blindly.
Make sure your teen understands how distracting it is to use smartphones while driving and have them commit to turning their phones off. Specific apps can block texting while driving, including Cellcontrol, Drive Safe Mode and Live2Text – to name a few. Others reward your teen for driving safely by providing financial bonuses and discounts on purchases at select retailers. These apps include SafeDrive, Drivemode and Drivesafe.ly.
Additionally, make sure your teen knows that New York law prohibits drivers with a probationary license, Class DJ, Class MJ or a learner permit from texting or using a cell phone while driving. If a teen violates this law, the teen could face consequence that include mandatory suspension of the teen’s driver’s license or permit for 120 days for a first offense.
Always Wear Your Seatbelt
The action of buckling your seatbelt every time you get into a vehicle is a simple but often overlooked step that teen drivers (and their passengers) can take to keep themselves safe. Simply put: Seatbelts save lives. Make sure your teen understands how this simple safety feature can keep them to avoid injuries from getting thrown around in (or ejected from) the vehicle in a collision.
Do Not Drive At Night
Especially for novice drivers, driving at night can test awareness, alertness and driving skills. According to statistics released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 42 percent of teen crash fatalities occur on weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Restricting your teen’s driving privileges to prevent them from driving during these especially dangerous hours could keep them safer.
It is also a good idea to discuss how dangerous drowsy driving can be. A tired driver is less alert or may doze off momentarily behind the wheel. Even a momentary lapse in alertness could lead to a serious or fatal accident. If your teen must drive at night, make sure the teen understands that he or she should drive only when well-rested and alert enough to operate a vehicle safely.
Do Not Drive Under The Influence
No driver should ever operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Make sure your teen understands just how deadly of a combination this can be. You should also remind your teen of New York’s “zero tolerance” law, which makes it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as low as 0.02 percent if you are under the age of 21.
Limit The Number Of Passengers In The Vehicle
According to the URMC report, studies have shown that crash rates for teenage drivers increase by 50 percent when another teen is a passenger in the car. With three or more teen passengers, the rate jumps by 400 percent. When your teen is first learning to grasp the responsibility of driving, make sure to limit the number of passengers that he or she can have in the vehicle.
What Are the Safest Used Vehicles for Teen Drivers?
In the June 2014 report, the IIHS provides lists of suggested safe vehicles for teen drivers. In coming up with the lists, the IIHS focused on four basic principles:
- Teen drivers do not need major horsepower in a vehicle. In fact, parents should stay away from buying high-powered, fast cars for their teens. It may encourage the teen driver to take unnecessary risks.
- Electronic stability control is a “must” when it comes to buying your teen a car. An ESC system can detect when a driver has lost steering control. The system automatically applies brakes and helps to correct the issue.
- Look for bigger and heavier vehicles. These vehicles tend to perform better when involved in an accident. For this reason, no small cars made the IIHS list of top choices for teen drivers.
- Vehicles for teen drivers should have the highest safety ratings possible.
The IIHS came up with two lists of recommended cars for teens. One list provides “best picks” for parents with a budget up to $20,000. The other list provides “good picks” for parents with a budget under $10,000.
Among the higher-priced models listed by the IIHS are:
- Large cars: Saab 9-5 sedan, model years 2010 and later
- Midsize cars: Toyota Prius v, 2012 and later
- Small SUVs: Honda CR-V, 2012 and later
- Midsize SUVs: Volvo XC60, 2010 and later
- Large SUVs: Buick Enclave, 2011 and later
- Minivans: Chrysler Town & Country, 2012 and later.
For parents shopping on tighter budget, the organization’s top picks were:
- Large cars: Acura RL, model years 2005 and later
- Midsize cars: Subaru Legacy, 2009
- Small SUVs: Nissan Rogue, 2008 and later
- Midsize SUVs: Mazda CX-9, 2007 and later
- Minivans: Volkswagen Routan, between 2009 and 2011.
You can see the other vehicles identified by the IIHS here.
The IIHS surveyed 500 parents and found that, despite safety risks, parents most often purchased small or mini-sized cars for teen drivers, with 28 percent buying vehicles in this category. Parents should read through the IIHS report, which may cause them to think twice about the vehicle they are providing to their teen.
Why Does Vehicle Choice Matter?
Not all vehicles are the same. They respond differently in accidents. Because teen drivers are at such a high risk of being involved in a crash, it only makes sense to invest your money in the safest vehicle possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that accident risk is highest among teens when compared with all other age groups. Per mile driven, teens are at a risk three times greater than drivers ages 20 and older.
Of course, choosing a safe vehicle is only part of the equation. Teens must also learn and be constantly reminded about safe driving practices.
Hurt in an Accident? Contact Our Rochester Car Accident Attorneys for Help
The Rochester car accident lawyers of Powers & Santola, LLP, represent people who have been hurt in accidents caused by a careless or reckless act. We are here to help you pursue answers and justice if you have suffered severe injuries or if you have lost a loved one in a crash. Let our team of aggressive trial attorneys put their experience to work for you. Our consultations are always free, and we will not collect anything unless we secure the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more.
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