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Kids are back in school, and that might mean that your teenager is hitting the road more frequently. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of death for American teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2015, more than 2,300 teens in the U.S. were killed in crashes, and more than 235,800 were treated in emergency rooms due to motor vehicle injuries.

Teens face unique driving threats when they’re behind the wheel and as passengers with other teen drivers. Here are some dangers to talk about with your teen so they stay safe driving during this school year.

Take Extra Care with Newly Licensed Drivers

Newly licensed teens make up one of the most at-risk groups of teen drivers, reports the CDC. The fatal crash rate is nearly twice as high for 16- and 17-year-olds compared to 18- and 19-year-olds.

If you have a teen who is just starting to drive, use these tips to keep them safe:

Set a good example. Buckle up every time you’re behind the wheel, especially when your teen is riding with you. Don’t look at your phone, keep your eyes on the road, lower the music, and employ safe driving habits.

Stop your teen from texting. There are apps like LifeSaver that prevent teens from using their phones while driving.

Spy on your kid. It might sound extreme, but you could install a dash cam to monitor your teen’s driving behavior, analyze it, and deem whether or not they’re OK to continue driving without you in the car.

Keep practicing with them. Even though your teen got their license, the more hours they put behind the wheel, the more of a driving expert they’ll become. Use nights and weekends to ride along with your teen and provide feedback to make them safer drivers.

You could also set a limit on who can ride along in the car with them. If your teen gets into a car accident and someone else is injured, their negligence could result in a lawsuit against your family.

Back-to-School Driving: Biggest Teen Driver RisksReiterate Sober Driving

Your child is not legally allowed to drink alcohol until they’re 21 years old anyway, but most parents realize substance abuse in high school may be a temptation. As a parent, talk with your child about the dangers of alcohol and illegal drugs. Drinking before driving:

  • Decreases muscle coordination, which negatively impacts balance, speech, vision, reaction time and hearing
  • Makes it more difficult to detect danger
  • Impairs judgment, self-control, reasoning, memory, concentration, speed control, information processing capability and perception

If your teen is driving to and from a party, remind them not to drink, or drive them there yourself. You could even buy a breathalyzer test (although the accuracy isn’t guaranteed), and use it on your teen if you ever suspect they’re about to get behind the wheel after drinking.

Back-to-School Driving: Biggest Teen Driver RisksPut a Cap on Speed

The CDC reports teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and maintain shorter distances between their car and the car they’re driving behind. When you add other teen passengers to the mix or distractions like loud music while driving, speeding can occur more often.

Parents can actually control the speed their teens drive at with technology like the Derive Systems X3. If your kid is just driving to and from school and isn’t hitting any freeways to get there, you can make sure they’re not speeding at 60 mph down your neighborhood road. Certain car brand services offer a similar type of speed limit setting.

Protect Your Family

Now that you know the risks teen drivers face, it’s important to realize that other drivers sharing the road with them face risks, as well. Accidents happen, and if your teen driver is in one, it’s vital you have prepared them to take the proper steps to stay safe, legal and protected. Tell them to:

  • Pull the car over to somewhere safe without leaving the scene of the accident
  • Do not admit fault in the accident
  • Call emergency services
  • Document the scene of the accident (states of the cars, any injuries)
  • Get medical treatment
  • Obtain insurance information from the other party

Obviously, your teen needs insurance before driving to stay legal. You should also warn your teen before they drive that someone else may be at fault for the accident, and that’s why it’s so important to pay attention to driving conditions and document the accident scene.

Another driver’s negligence may cause serious injuries to your child. In that case, you may want to contact a Birmingham car accident lawyer.

It might help to write down what to do after a car accident in a checklist your teen can carry in their glove compartment. A car accident can be scarier than a pop quiz, and as a parent, you can make sure they’re prepared.

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