By Madison Graham
Buckle your seat belt and hang on as teens across the country gear up for National Teen Driver Safety Week! NTDSW is a week-long campaign from October 21st-27th dedicated to encouraging teen drivers to practice safe driving behaviors. This event is an opportunity for teens to make a difference in their community. Every time you get behind the wheel, you are faced with a number of choices. Saying “It’s just one text” or “I just had a few drinks” could put you in a situation like this guy.
Driving should be taken seriously, and dangerous driving behaviors are no joke! 61% of teen drivers admitted that they engage in risky driving behaviors. More importantly, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States.
It’s 2018, people! It is time to end the epidemic of teen driving fatalities.
NTDSW provides an opportunity to open the conversation with parents, teachers, and teen drivers on the dangers of risky driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reminds teen drivers of the “5 to Drive” rules: No cell phones while driving, no extra passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, and no driving or riding without a seat belt.
It can wait! No matter how important the text might seem, how funny the meme you were tagged in, or how badly you want to Insta Story yourself belting the lyrics to the new Drake song, driving distracted slows your reaction time to your surroundings, and should never be justified! Make your little brother in the passenger seat text Mom back. And if your little brother is not cool enough to hang out with you and your friends, pull over to text.
The stats are pretty scary. More than half of teen driver crashes involved some aspect of distracted driving. In the United States, nine people die every day due to distracted driving. Also, because distracted driving is hard to prove when reporting a crash, it is assumed that these numbers are vastly under reported.
Seat Belt Usage
This one is a no brainer! Wearing a seat belt can reduce your risk of death be 45%, and reduce the risk of serious injury by 50%. Over half of the passengers killed by teen drivers were unbuckled. If you and your friends are about to hop in the car and go to the movies, do a quick scan of the car to ensure that yourself and all of your passengers are wearing their seat belt. No seat belt? Not moving! Sorry not sorry! Seat belt usage is lowest among teens, which is crazy, because don’t we all have that one friend who thinks they are a NASCAR driver? – That’s a whole other problem, see Speeding.
Underage Drinking and Driving
No, you should never drive if you’ve “only had one drink.” It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 in the U.S. to consume alcohol. You will get a DUI and go to jail, which is something you definitely do not want to do at this age (or like, ever). Even though underage drivers account for only 10% of the total driving population, they are responsible for 17% of the alcohol-related deaths from car crashes. So don’t get all salty when your friends ask you not to drive after a hangout. Listen to them! Uber and Lyft are your friends! A $10 ride is MUCH cheaper than $20,000-$40,000 and jail time.
As a passenger to a teen driver, you have the duty to help the driver, not hurt them. After all, your friends have your life in their hands! Encourage them to pass you the aux cord so you can play DJ. However, if they insist on showing you the new Khalid song on their phone, then politely ask them to hand the phone over to you, so they can keep their eyes on the road. Even though you are only a passenger, you still have a duty to your friends to make sure everyone is engaging in safe behaviors. Teen driver fatalities increases with the number of passengers in the car. Make sure the driver is sober, and make sure everyone has on their seat belts to ensure you all have a safe trip to your destination!
Slow down there, kiddo! Speeding can not only cost you extra money out of your pocket if you get a ticket, but you have a greater risk of losing control of your vehicle. Speeding and aggressive driving behaviors can lead to serious injury and even death. Just like you learned in your physics class, (never thought you would talk about physics in real life, right?) the kinetic energy has to be transferred when a collision happens. So basically, the faster you are going, the more kinetic energy you will have, and therefore greater damage occurs.
Every 10 mph you drive over 50 mph, you double your chances of death or serious injury. One-third of teen drivers that were involved in a fatal crash were speeding.
Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
As National Teen Driver Safety Week approaches, try to take initiative to make a difference in your school. After all, we all have big plans after high school, so let’s make sure the teens in your community achieve their greatest potential in life. Listen to your parents! They have about 30 years of driving experience on you, so make sure to obey their rules they lay out for you. Take driving seriously, and do not ever engage in risky driving behaviors.
Remember: National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 21st-27th. If you want to get your school involved, go to https://www.t-driver.com/get-involved/start-tds/ for more information.
Madison Graham is a student at the University of Texas obtaining her master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning. She loves all things transportation, and her focuses include bicycle and pedestrian accessibility and safety.