Every driver was once a teenager getting behind the wheel for the first time. Most teen drivers are still learning how to safely and prudently control motor vehicles…often through trial and error. Even the best teen drivers, however, do not have the real-world experience to equip them for all possible roadway scenarios. Teenagers can make poor decisions that increase their odds of getting into serious car accidents. A few safety tips could save lives.
Car accidents disproportionately involve teen drivers compared to other age groups. Although teens ages 15 to 19 only represent 6.5% of the country’s total population, they account for 8.4% of the costs of car accident injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the most important safety tips for teen drivers is to put the phone down. Cellphones have caused thousands of fatal car accidents.
Texting or talking on a handheld electronic device can greatly increase the risk of getting into a collision. Teen drivers are more likely than adults to use cellphones behind the wheel to text, talk, watch videos and scroll through social media. Teens should get into the habit of turning their phones off or putting them in the glove compartment while driving. Parents may want to consider downloading apps or using other devices to block teens from using cellphones behind the wheel.
Teenagers have the lowest rate of seat belt use among all drivers in the U.S. They may not fully understand the dangers of not buckling up, or they may intentionally ignore the risks to look cool. Either way, failing to use a seat belt could drastically increase the risk of sustaining a fatal injury in a car accident. In 2017, if everyone had worn a seat belt, an additional 2,549 people would have survived car accidents. All drivers – adults and teens – should wear their seat belts on every drive, whether they are traveling 1 or 100 miles.
Drinking and driving is a main contributor to fatal car accidents in Texas. In 2017, 1,024 Texans died in car accidents involving drunk drivers. Someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot safely or adequately operate a vehicle. Unfortunately, many intoxicated people overestimate their abilities. They may think they are sober enough to drive when in reality they are drifting in and out of lanes, slamming on the brakes, driving the wrong way on one-way streets, running red lights, speeding or engaging in other dangerous behaviors.
Teen drivers should never drink and drive. They could cause accidents that kill them and/or others. They could also face serious penalties if police catch them driving under the influence (DUI). Texas is a Zero Tolerance DUI state. Drivers under the age of 21 can get DUIs with almost any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood, not just 0.08. The penalties for DUI in Texas include thousands of dollars in fines and jail time. It is easier than ever to find a sober ride thanks to apps such as Uber and Lyft.
Speeding is dangerous for many reasons. A speeding driver may be unable to react in time to avoid a stopped vehicle, crossing animal or child that darts into the road. Driving too fast for conditions can make it impossible to stop fast enough in a dangerous situation. It contributes to accidents such as hydroplaning, vehicle rollovers, head-on collisions and high-speed rear-end collisions.
Speeding also increases the risk of suffering serious and fatal injuries in an accident. When two vehicles collide, they do so at the combined speeds of both vehicles. If the teen is traveling at 70 miles per hour, therefore, and collides with a driver going 45, the speed of the collision is 115 miles per hour. Higher speeds in a crash can cause more serious personal injuries. Slowing down is one of the best ways to increase a driver’s safety.