How to Keep Your Teen Drivers Safe During the ‘100 Deadliest Days’ of Summer

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the death toll involving teen crashes jumps 17% per day. Over the past five years, almost 3,500 people were killed in crashes that involved teen drivers during these ‘100 Deadliest Days’. These staggering statistics should bring alarm to any parent of a current or future teen driver. 

So, what can you do to protect your teen, and others, on the road this summer? Every decision you make as a parent matters, from choosing the right car to leading by example when you’re behind the wheel. Openbay is here to deliver the tips and tools you need:

Top Three Reasons for Teen-Driving Fatalities in the Summer

Speeding – Speeding was the leading cause in 32 percent of fatal teen crashes in 2016. Exceeding speed limits increases the risk of an accident and the severity at which it occurs.

Impaired Driving – In 2016, one out of every five teen drivers killed in a crash had been drinking, despite the fact that the legal limit for teens is zero. Immaturity and inexperience can lead to high-risk behavior like driving late at night, drinking and driving, and distracted driving from phones and other passengers. Plus, new statistics estimate that around 15 million people have gotten behind the wheel under the influence of marijuana, and 70% of American drivers don’t see an issue with this. 

Distracted Driving – More than half of teen drivers (52 percent) reported reading a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days, and nearly 40 percent admitted to sending a text or email. Plus, teen drivers suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a 62 percent higher chance of experiencing a car accident in the first month of obtaining a driver’s license. Over a four-year period, teen drivers with ADHD have a 37 percent higher chance of experiencing an accident than other teens. 

Prepping Your Teen for a Major Milestone

These scary statistics can turn any parent into a ‘helicopter parent’. In fact, there’s even a proposed bill in Texas to give parents the responsibility of the driving instruction and grading of the official driving test. No matter how overwhelming it is, the truth of the matter is that parents need to relinquish the driver’s seat to their teens eventually. 

Driving solo for the first time is a major milestone for teens, filled with excitement and newfound freedom. Here’s a few key tips to help you prepare your teen for their first trip (without you in the passenger seat):

  1. Pick Smart – There’s no reason to buy your teen a brand new car. In fact, 83 percent of parents who bought a vehicle for their teenagers said they bought it used. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommends following these four principles when selecting a car for your teen:
  • Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no minicars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car. 
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts. 
  • Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Check out the IIHS list of recommended used vehicles for teens here. Their recommendations below $10,000 include: Volkswagen Passat, Volvo S60, Ford Fusion, Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord, Volkswagen Jetta, Mazda 6 and Honda Accord. Prices range from about $2,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.

One you set your sights on the right choice, schedule an inspection with a trusted mechanic to look over their vehicle before your teen drives it. 

  1. Start Small – Driving can be overwhelming for your teen, too. Don’t let your anxiety overshadow theirs. Start with small trips, less than five miles, to get them comfortable with the road. Compliment them when they drive safely and encourage them to be an example to their friends. Patience and constructive criticism can go a long way in building up your teen’s confidence. During these short trips, prep your teen with knowledge, and perhaps personal anecdotes, about what to do in an accident. Learning how to drive together is an excellent opportunity to bond with your teen free from distractions, so enjoy the ride! 
  2. Create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement – This is guaranteed to make your teen’s eyes roll, but if it keeps them safe and gives you peace-of-mind, it’s a win-win. AAA offers a helpful guide to creating your own StartSmart Parent-Teen Driving Agreement, which includes example violations and suggested consequences. 
  3. Make Yourself Available – Teens who have a close relationship with their parents tend to be more conscious of their on-road behavior. If your teen is going to a party where there might be underage drinking, remind them that the legal limit for teens is zero and that driving under the influence of marijuana is not safe. Reinforce that you’re just one call away and willing to be their emergency ride. Get engaged with their driving adventures by spending time with them as they learn. 
  4. Lead by Example – You want your words to line up with your behaviors, especially since kids tend to learn more effectively by watching than listening. Buckle up, store your phone out of reach and keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. 

Your Work Isn’t Over Yet

Once you’ve invested in a car for your teen and handed over the keys, you can’t forget about some critical learning opportunities in the path toward adulthood. 

  1. Teach your teen how to use their five senses to determine if there’s a problem with their vehicle (hearing squealing brakes, feeling unusual vibrations or lurching, smelling gasoline or coolant, seeing a check engine light, etc). 
  2. Stress the importance of preventative maintenance, such as regular oil changes and tire inflation, to avoid hefty repair bills further down the road. Most likely, if you show your teen driver the average cost of auto repairs, they will have extra incentive to care for their car properly. We’re pretty sure a summer job won’t cover the cost of a damaged engine, and that cost can be avoided by staying on top of scheduled maintenance
  3. A recent study found that 60 percent of US drivers actually consider their cars to be a full-fledged part of the family. You don’t have to convince your teenager that their new car is a new member of the family, but you should emphasize the importance of regular TLC and preventative maintenance. Explain and review the recommended service intervals in their owner’s manual. Most likely, they will prefer a digital version, available here
  4. Show them the basics, such as checking engine oil levels and changing a tire, to empower your teen with the knowledge they need to be responsible and confident drivers. 

Openbay Speaks Generation Z’s Language 

Openbay understands the communication needs of younger generations, which is why we offer a modern approach to car repair. In just a few clicks, vehicle owners can find a trusted mechanic, compare personalized service estimates and book a service online at openbay.com

We will connect you or your teen with the auto technician that’s right for you.

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