With school nearly out for the summer, recently licensed teenage drivers will be behind the wheel much more than normal over the next few months. Teens (and sometimes parents) might not know or appreciate the dangers lurking around every corner. Young drivers are under constant pressure from friends and technology, which only increases the potential for motor vehicle collisions or other traumatic incidents.
Here are a few tips for teen drivers (and their parents) to make sure the summer season is safe:
1. Never Drive Without a Seat Belt. The click-it-or-ticket campaign has brought widespread awareness to the dangers of driving without a seatbelt, and statistics show that seatbelt usage has risen dramatically during this period. Not only can teens receive traffic tickets for not wearing their seat belt, but the safety devices have been proven to save lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 60% of teens involved in fatal crashes were not wearing their seat belt at the time of the crash.
2. Stay Within the Speed Limit. As with seat belts, speed limits are the law. Exceeding the speed limit not only increases the likelihood of a traffic infraction, but speeding is a leading cause of motor vehicle collisions. In addition, and this is just common sense, the faster you are traveling at the time of a motor vehicle collision, the higher the forces imparted on your body. In other words, higher speeds tend to lead to more severe injuries in a collision.
3. Practice in Different Types of Weather. In the Pacific Northwest, weather can go from sunny skies to sleet and hail in a matter of minutes. If your teen plans on driving in inclement weather, teens (and their parents) need to understand the dangers of different types of weather. Practicing in controlled environments in snow, heavy rain, and even bright sunshine can be an invaluable tool to make sure teens are ready to drive no matter the circumstances. Just be sure to remind them that no matter how much they practice, driving in inclement weather always requires care and patience.
4. Never Drink and Drive. Rightfully so, Washington state takes DUIs very seriously. Even a first-time offender may be subjected to mandatory minimum sentences including suspended driver’s licenses, substantial fees, required classes and panels, along with jail. Teenage drinking is against the law for a reason, but parents should always make sure that their teens understand that even one drink can lead to collisions and a permanent mark on their criminal record.
5. Create Driving Rules. Collaborating with your teen is a smart way to get all expectations out in the open. Working with them to come up with those guidelines is a great way to get them invested in their driving privilege and help them appreciate the responsibilities that come along with being behind the wheel. Open discussions about drinking and driving, speeding and traffic infractions, and seat belts will not only create clarity about driving, but violations of the agreement can be met with repercussions that were known from the beginning.
Getting a driver’s license is an important time in both the teen’s and parent’s life. The parent is suddenly ‘off the hook’ from all the driving responsibilities. Instead, their new job is to make sure their teen is properly equipped to drive a car capable of great and terrible things. Preparation is key to everything in life, so having these conversations early on is essential to a great driving relationship. And, if you or your teen have additional questions about insurance or auto collisions, don’t hesitate to call Magnuson Lowell PS for a free consultation.