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Parental involvement key to preventing teenage car accidents

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. Unsafe driving behaviors and lack of experience often contribute to their increased risk of being in a car accident. Recent studies have shown that teens often learn driving behaviors from their parents, placing more of the burden on parental involvement when teenagers begin to drive.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called for parents to teach and model safe driving behaviors for teens. The NHTSA said that parental involvement is a vital factor for educating and helping teens become safe drivers.

The NHTSA reported that 1,963 teen drivers between 15 and 20 years old were killed in car accidents in 2010, with an additional 187,000 teen drivers injured in car accidents in the same year. The report also showed that one out of 10 fatal car accidents involved drivers between the ages of 15 and 20.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that parents can have a direct impact on their teen's driving. Parents can and should talk to teens about the dangers of driving and the importance of learning safe driving behaviors when they first start to drive. Parents can also help enforce state graduated driver licensing laws and texting while driving bans.

The NHTSA offered advice to parents with teen drivers:

  • Understand and have teens follow graduated driver licensing laws. GDL programs allow teens to learn safe driving behavior and experience by restricting how many passengers teens can drive with, among other rules.
  • Prohibit teens from using cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. Talking or texting while driving is risky for all drivers and contributes to many fatal car accidents among teen drivers.
  • Limit night driving and passengers in the car. Teen drivers are more likely to take risks while driving when other teen passengers are in the vehicle.
  • Make sure teen drivers wear their seat belts. In 2010, three out of five teenage car accident victims were not wearing seat belts.
  • Discuss the dangers of drinking and driving. In 2010, 22 percent of teen drivers killed in car accidents were drinking alcohol.

Source: Consumer Affairs, "Parents Urged to Establish Rules of the Road for Teen Drivers," James Limbach, Oct. 1, 2012

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