If you’re the parent of a teenager who is about to or has just started getting behind the wheel of a car, congratulations — and try not to stress. Having a teen driver is exciting because they’re gaining more responsibilities that can have a positive effect on your family, but there is also more to worry about. New teen drivers who are driving on their own are more likely to be involved in car accidents, as 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age. Teen drivers are more likely to account for more auto accident costs, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 11 percent of motor vehicle injury costs are associated with 15-to-19-year-olds, who only account for 7 percent of the population.
With school back in session in Alabama, teen drivers are taking to the road to get to and from school and all the extracurricular activities that go along with it — including parties. As a parent, make sure to also emphasize these driving aspects to teen drivers who have secured their licenses.
Always Be Prepared
Teen drivers should make sure they never drive in a vehicle that is not prepared to be on the road. This means the vehicles should be properly maintained, including having regular oil changes, windshield wipers that work, functioning brake and turn signal lights, intact side view and rearview mirrors, and proper engine functioning.
All seat belts in a car should work and be worn at all times. Tell your teen not to give a ride to anyone unless they are buckled up. If your child is driving at the time of an accident, you want to make sure that any possible accusations of negligence are avoided, making sure that they always wear their seat belt will not only keep them safer but will help to protect them from being liable for negligence.
Teen drivers should also make sure that their most up-to-date insurance information is safely stored in a glove compartment for easy access in case they’re pulled over. They should always drive with a valid license, too.
Follow All Driving Instructions
The CDC reports some of the most significant risk factors teen drivers face compared to other age groups on the road include nighttime driving, distracted driving, drowsy driving and reckless driving. Inexperience heightens all these risks, which is why proper training is essential before a teen drives alone. Once they start driving independently, though, parents should talk to teens about avoiding dangers on the road.
You should make it clear that teens should:
- Never drive while using a smartphone
- Only use in-car technology such as maps or a radio when stopped completely
- Avoid driving when tired, whether after leaving a party or from staying at a friend’s house
- Be aware of the power a car has and be careful to protect their life and the lives of others by driving alertly every time
Substance abuse and impaired driving from alcohol or drugs also pose a threat. If your teen uses any medication that increases their risks, you should consider limiting their driving ability.
Be Wary of Other Passengers
One of the biggest threats to your teen driver is other passengers they ride with in the car. Teen drivers might get distracted by conversations, by looking at something on a smartphone, or by the actions another teen passenger is taking in the vehicle.
Communicate to your child that they should avoid driving with others. If this is necessary, such as in a carpool situation, they should reduce the risk by:
- Turning off the radio
- Banning smartphone use in the car
- Limiting the amount of total passengers in a car
Your teen is likely under your insurance policy. You can create a safe driving agreement with your teen that enforces their adherence to safe driving behaviors you agree upon. If the teen does not follow those, their driving privileges will be revoked.
What to Do When All Else Fails
Even when your teen driver safely follows all traffic laws and focuses on driving while they’re behind the wheel, accidents may still occur. Prepare your teen for this, by advising them to do the following after an accident:
- Call 911. They should be honest in what they tell police happened, provide all materials asked of them, and not leave the scene of the accident without direction from police.
- Document the scene. The teen should take photos and videos of the vehicle and the conditions of themselves and passengers.
- Talk to a parent. Make it clear to your teen that their honesty in telling you about any accident situation is vital and that they will not be punished for their honesty. Highlight that you are their advocate if they are involved in an accident, and the more transparent they can be and the more information they can provide, the more you can help protect them and their driving rights.
In any accident where there is a serious injury, or your teen or you believes another party’s negligence caused the accident, you may have a car accident claim that can be pursued. Contact a car accident attorney in Birmingham for more information on how to protect the rights of your teen.