Teens and the Need for Speed

joyrideWhen teenagers get keys to a car, most parents remember to talk to their child about not drinking and driving. Some of the more savvy parents remember to discuss the perils of distracted driving. But, most parents forget to talk to teen drivers about one of the most obvious causes of accidents: speeding.

Speeding is the primary reason for one-third of all fatal crashes involving teen drivers, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). While total teen fatalities have declined over the last decade, the number of fatal teen driver crashes due to speeding, has increased over the same period.

Speeding is more prevalent among teen males, at night, and in the presence of other teen passengers. When three or more teen passengers are in a vehicle driven by a 16-year-old male, almost half of their fatal crashes are speeding-related.

Below are tips for parents to keep their teens moving at a safe speed while behind the wheel:

Talk about it. When teenagers begin driver’s education, don’t just assume that they will receive all the important messages they need from their instructor. Have serious discussions about the importance and your expectation of observing all traffic laws. Give them the facts about speeding, and reinforce the importance of the “3-second rule” in following behind other vehicles. Create family rules around driver safety with established consequences for speeding, driving drunk, and texting while driving. And, do not focus your warnings against speeding only on the highway. Over 85% of all speed-related fatal crashes occur on non-interstate roads. The rule should be no speeding anywhere.

Discuss consequences. While every state’s rules are different, there are consequences in place for speeding. In addition to the fine imposed by a ticket, you receive “points” on your license that can add up to higher car insurance rates or losing driving privileges. Parents should get familiar with their state’s laws and inform their teens.

Be a role model. The “do what I say and not what I do” policy doesn’t work. You cannot speed through your neighborhood, but tell your teen to follow the speed limit. Parents must model the behaviors they desire. That means parents must wear a seatbelt, avoid the cellphone, and obey the speed limits every time they are behind the wheel. Teens learn by example.

Do not buy your teen a car right away. The GHSA study shows that new drivers that are the primary owner of a vehicle are much more likely to speed than a new driver who is using the family car.

Discuss the illusion of speed. Speeding makes us feel as if we’re getting to our destination quicker, but in reality that is not true. Between traffic lights and maneuvering around slower cars, almost all of the time saved by speeding is eaten up. In addition, the dangerous weaving in and out of traffic and the wild braking and accelerating generally cause the speeding driver to develop a big case of road rage. Speeding is not worth the frustration and potential tickets or crashes.

Get a feel for speed. It takes time for a new driver to develop the ability to instinctively know how fast they are traveling. When you have a pre-driving teen (14 or 15 years-old), periodically ask them to guess how fast you are driving without looking at the speedometer. This will help them develop a sense of a car’s speed, which will help them stay under the speed limit when they begin to drive.

Limit passengers. Teens are social creatures, and there’s nothing much cooler than picking some buddies up in a car to go somewhere. Unfortunately, passengers are very distracting, and the desire to impress passengers with speed is very strong. Most experts highly encourage parents to ban passengers during a teen’s first year of driving.   Many states have imposed limits on the number of people in the car of a new driver, as well as the number of non-family members.

Final Thoughts…

Teens who drive the speed limit have a significantly decreased risk of dying in a fatal car crash. When teens begin to drive, it is crucial that parents talk about all three perils of the roadway: drinking and driving, texting and other forms of distracted driving, and speeding. Studies show that teens who are monitored by their parents tend to drive more safely, so be involved!

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