The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that 3,490 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 years old died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 and an additional 272,000 were injured. Drivers in this age group accounted for 12.9 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes and 16 percent of the drivers involved in police-reported crashes.
Drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 years old have the highest rate of fatal crashes among all age groups including the elderly. The risk of being involved in a fatal crash is three times greater for teens than for people between the ages of 65 to 69.
Lack of driving experience and taking unnecessary risks are the two main reasons for the high crash rate among teens. However, both of these issues can be addressed, and their impact on a teenage driver’s safety significantly reduced when parents assume a proactive role in their teenagers’ driver education.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is by drawing up a driving contract between you and your teen driver. Teendriving.com offers the following advice about what to include in your contract:
· Specify which car(s) the teen is allowed to drive – The car should have a driver’s side airbag, a good safety rating, and be easy to maneuver
· Make the teen responsible for gas, oil changes, tire pressure checks, regular maintenance requirements, and keeping the car clean inside and out.
· Have the teen agree to pay for insurance – Paying insurance costs with a part-time job provides some incentive for avoiding reckless behavior.
· Specify that the teen must follow these rules or be subject to some agreed upon, pre-determined penalty:
1. Always obeying the speed limit and traffic laws.
2. Always wearing seat belts and making sure that all passengers are buckled up before driving.
3. Never driving after drinking or using drugs – The contract should state that teens are not allowed to drink and drive, have alcohol in the car, or even be a passenger in a car with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs. Assure your teen that they can always call you to come get them if they are stranded at a gathering.
4. Not driving with friends in the car – Teens should not be allowed to drive with friends or even younger siblings in the car for the first six to twelve months of having their license unless an adult is also in the car.
5. Not using cell phones or texting while driving.
6. Letting you know where they are going and when they plan to return.
7. Maintaining curfews – Set realistic curfews, but also tell teens that if they are running late, it’s always better to drive safely than speed to make up the minutes. They should call you if possible to let you know they are on the way home.