Parents Key To Reducing Teen Driver Crashes

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Parents and Teen Driving

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for 16- to 20-year-olds, accounting for approximately 5,500 fatalities and 450,000 injuries annually. A revised American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement, "The Teen Driver" explains why teenagers are at greater risk of motor vehicle-related injuries, describes innovative programs and proposes preventive interventions for pediatricians, parents, legislators, educators and other child advocates.

Teens (16- to 19-year-olds) are involved in crashes more than 4 times that of 30- to 69-year-olds. Furthermore, young novice teen drivers (16-17) have more crashes than older novice teen drivers (18-19). Many teen crashes are caused by inexperience, inadequate practice time and judgment errors, not just from speeding and irresponsible risk taking.

The policy recommends several ways parents can help their teens be better drivers:

  • Give permission for them to obtain a license;

  • Control access to the vehicle;

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  • Set family restrictions and punishments for infractions;

  • Assure that the vehicle is safe;

  • Be a driving instructor and supervisor or provide driving lessons;

  • Serve as a role model for safe driving.

A new component to the policy encourages teenager-parent written contracts that help define driving rules based on the teenager's age, maturity and degree of driving experience. At a minimum, parents should place restrictions on nighttime driving and limits on the number of teen passengers. Initially, the rules should be fairly strict but can be relaxed as the teen becomes older and more experienced. The AAP sample Teen Driver contract is available as part of the policy statement.

The AAP continues to strongly support Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws that require the following: a permit period with extensive on-road practice (lasts at least six months during which driver must have at least 30 hours, preferably 50, of on-road supervised practice); an intermediate or provisional stage that lasts until age 18; limits on night driving (9 or 10pm) and number of teen passengers.

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