Tribune managing editor
This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week, and the message is simple: Talking to your teen about safe driving can make a difference.
According to statistics from State Farm Insurance, car crashes remain the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers. The fatality rate for drivers ages 16 to 19 is four times that of drivers ages 25 to 69.
The fatality rate for 16- to 17-year-olds is highest within the first six months after getting a license, but the rate remains high through the age of 24.
There’s no safety in numbers. About two-thirds of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving.
Teens are almost 10 times more likely to be in a crash during their first year on the road. One in 4 traffic fatalities in the United States involves a driver 16 to 24 years old.
But there is good news for parents. A recent study found that teenagers whose parents set boundaries for driving were half as likely to crash, twice as likely to wear seat belts, 71 percent less likely to drive while intoxicated and 30 percent less likely to use a cellphone while driving.
State Farm urges parents to find out the graduated driver’s license restrictions in Indiana and to make sure their children follow them.
Tell your teenager to feel free to blame you for his or her unwillingness to go along with the crowd, and work out a code word your child can use if he or she needs to be bailed out of an unsafe situation. With a code word or phrase, the teen won’t have to say, “Come and get me, Mom.” He or she might simply say, “I forgot to walk the dog.”
Parents should also make sure their teens get lots of supervised driving practice. Fifty hours is a minimum, not a maximum.
Let your teen drive every time you’re in the car together, and make sure he or she gets a chance to drive under various weather conditions as well as at night. You might even want to keep a log of the hours you spend driving and the skills you practice.
Catch your teen doing it right. Teens need positive reinforcement, so point out when your child uses good judgment behind the wheel.
But when your kids do it wrong, point that out, too. Take away the keys if you have to, and make sure they know the reasons why.
Teenagers are counting on their parents to spell out the rules of the road. Let’s be sure we don’t let them down.