Raising safe drivers

Rose Green-Flores, Lake Regional Public Relations Specialist
Special to the Lake Sun, USA TODAY NETWORK
Vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teens and young adults,

Getting a driver’s license is a joyous experience for a teen but a source of worry for their parents –– and for good reason. However, there is a lot parents can do to ensure their teen is safe behind the wheel, starting with talking to their teen about safe driving habits.

“Vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teens and young adults,” said Shawn Andreasen, R.N., Emergency Department director at Lake Regional. “Raising a safe teen driver starts with adults setting a good example and demonstrating safe driving habits.”

Being Real about the Danger

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, per mile driven, teen drivers are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash.

This danger is why Missouri has a Graduated Driver License Law, which requires that all teen first-time drivers have an intermediate license before getting a full driver license when they turn 18. The intermediate license has driving restrictions related to number of passengers and night driving. But parents and other adults can do even more to ensure teens are safe behind the wheel.

Practice, Practice, Practice

“Make sure your teen gets plenty of practice on a variety of roads and during times of peak traffic,” Andreasen said. “Help them practice driving at night and in rain or snow. Good drivers are knowledgeable and alert, and lots of practice will help them handle any situation on the road.”

As they practice, emphasize these basic rules:

Wear a seatbelt. Teens tend to feel invincible, so it might help to let them know that if they don’t wear their seatbelt, that puts others riding with them at greater risk for fatal injury. That’s because someone who isn’t wearing a seatbelt can strike another passenger, which can cause severe injury and even death.

One study of more than 70,000 crashes found that the risk of death was 20 percent greater for a belted person in front of an unrestrained passenger, compared with a belted person in front of a restrained rear passenger. The risk of death for a rear occupant was increased about 22 percent if someone in front was unrestrained, compared with having someone in front who was restrained.

“You wear a seatbelt for yourself and those in the vehicle with you,” Andreasen said. “Knowing this can also help teens encourage everyone riding with them to buckle up.”

Watch your speed. According to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, excessive speed is the most common factor in Missouri fatal crashes.

“Don’t disregard speed limits because you are in a hurry or are familiar with the road,” Andreasen said. “Speed limits are there to keep everyone safe.”

Avoid distractions. Never talk or text on the phone while driving. Put electronic devices in the glove box, or put them on airplane mode so that you won’t be tempted to answer any incoming messages or calls.

“Everyone — teens and adults — should focus on the road when driving,” Andreasen said. “Even tasks like eating and drinking can be dangerous distractions, as well.”

Stay alert. Always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your fellow drivers. Drive defensively, and be prepared for the unexpected.

Never drive impaired. You should never drive when you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes some prescription medications, so look for warnings about drowsiness.

“When driving, always prioritize safety,” Andreasen said. “The poor decisions someone makes behind the wheel can lead to tragic results for the driver, as well as others in their vehicle and those sharing the road with them. Create a safe driving culture for your teen to follow.”