An article in the Washington Post last September reported the news of a young man who was sentenced to an 18-month jail term for causing the death of one friend and severe injury to another.
The young man and two friends had just left a party where there was underage drinking. His convertible crashed into a tree and a nearby light pole, causing one passenger to be ejected from the car, his body flung more than 100 feet through the air. The other passenger was critically injured and spent six months in the hospital. The two passengers, who were not drinking, made the fateful mistake of getting into a car with the wrong person.
At the time of the accident, the driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.11 and the car was traveling at 119 miles per hour – in a 35-mph zone. They were less than one mile away from the party they had just left.
This kind of story is more common than we would like to believe. But, underage drinking is not the only cause of teen driving accidents.
Since January is Teen Driver Awareness Month, this is a great time to think about what parents can do to reduce the risk of accidents for the young drivers in your family.
“Stop the Texts”
Our kids have grown up in the digital age, spending more time looking down at their phones, texting, instant messaging and tweeting at an astounding pace. And of course, being young and inexperienced, they also believe they are invincible. They think they drive a car and text at the same time without a problem.
Nearly 60 percent of teenage driving accidents are a result of “distracted” driving. We can tell our kids that the rule is “no texting while driving.” Or, we can go one step further. There are plenty of apps available to block phone calls, texts and other messages as soon as the key is turned in the ignition. Sound heavy-handed? Maybe. But, wouldn’t you rather know that your son or daughter has one less distraction while they are behind the wheel?
Buckle up, baby!
Much as we baby boomers take seat belt usage as a given, the scary fact is that teens are the largest age group to ignore the law about buckling up. While you can’t be there to ensure your teen is buckling up every time, you can have firm rules about the consequences for failing to wear a seat belt. Make sure to spend as much time as possible in the car when your teen first starts to drive. Reinforce good behavior by being a good role model yourself. Don’t wait until you get to the end of the driveway before you buckle up your own seatbelt. Do it before you even turn on the car. Your children are watching and they are affected by what you do – and what you don’t do.
Don’t let your teen turn her car into a taxi!
Another big distraction for teenagers while driving is the number of passengers in the car. Teens do not have enough behind-the-wheel experience to handle a carful of noisy friends. At least for the first year after your teen has gotten her license, limit the number of passengers allowed to one. If your teen fails to obey your rule, you can slam the brakes on her driving privileges.
Of course, no drinking and driving.
As the Washington Post story illustrated, drunk driving is perhaps the scariest scenario of all. One bad decision can have a deadly ripple effect that will last a lifetime and impact many innocent people.
And, while there must be a strict rule against underage drinking, the reality is that kids will make mistakes. They need to know that they can call for a ride, even if they’ve made a bad choice. The last thing we want our children to do is get behind the wheel because they are afraid of what we will do if we discover they’ve been drinking. Make sure your kids know that you will pick them up, no questions asked – well, at least not until the next day.
Insuring a new driver can seem complicated. Let us do the work for you here at O’Brien Insurance in Glens Falls NY! Call us today at 518-793-5173 or request your free quote online.