What is National Teen Driver Safety Week?

National Teen Driver Safety Week is the third week in October every year. This is a week that’s set aside to raise awareness of the inherent risks faced by young drivers as they make their way out onto our nation’s streets, highways and byways.

Statistics show that drivers under the age of 25 are two to three times more likely to text or send emails while behind the wheel, despite the majority of states outlawing cell phone use or texting while driving. In fact, in 2017 it was found that 9 percent of drivers under the age of 20 who died in car crashes had been distracted at the time of the crash.

Teens and the GDL System

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs, which exist in all 50 states, were envisioned to restrict the driving privileges of new drivers, and they do seem to help. GDL programs have been shown to decrease teen crashes, but studies have shown that more comprehensive GDL programs are even better for cutting back on teen crashes and fatalities.

How Does the GDL System Work?

The GDL system is fairly simple. New drivers have restricted driving privileges, which are removed slowly as the driver gains experience and competency. This typically occurs in three stages:

  • Learner Stage/Permit
  • Intermediate Stage/Provisional License
  • Full Stage/License

While all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have some form of a GDL system in place, these laws can vary from state to state. Comprehensive GDL laws typically include:

  • Requiring teens to be at least 16 years of age to get a learner’s permit
  • A holding period of at least 12 months, maybe longer
  • Restrictions against driving at night (typically between 10 pm and 5 am)
  • A limit of one young passenger without adult supervision
  • Teens don’t receive their full license until the age of 18.

What Can I Do to Make Sure My Teen Follows the GDL Laws?

While most teen drivers comply with GDL restrictions, there are ways you can encourage your teenager to follow the GDL laws.

  • Set house rules that comply with GDL laws.
  • Be extra mindful on weekends, on holidays and in the summer.
  • Educate your teen on the importance of following GDL laws.
  • Help your teen avoid high-risk driving situations by showing them alternate routes to take.
  • Comply with GDL laws yourself. Teens develop driving habits largely based on parents’ driving behaviors. Model safe driving to increase the odds that your young driver will too.
  • Set an example by avoiding substance use and setting rules about substance use for your teen.
  • Offer a minimum of 50 hours of practice driving, including at least 10 hours at night. The more available you are to help your teen pass their driver’s test, the better their driving skills become.
  • Allow at least 6 months of practice driving from the time your teen gets their permit until they take the driving test.
  • Forbid cell phone use in the car unless it’s parked.
  • Forbid any other teen passengers until at least 6 months after they receive their license. Allow only one teen passenger for the second 6 months after receiving their license.
  • Don’t permit any nighttime driving (between 10 pm and 5 am) without supervision.
  • Continue supervising your teen and exposing them to new, varied driving even after they receive their license.

What Should I Talk to My Teenage Drivers About?

Communication is important once you have a licensed teenager in your home. Some things you can talk about with them include:

  • Substance use and why not to get behind the wheel if they are intoxicated
  • No cell phone use while driving
  • Why it’s important to follow the speed limit and avoid speeding
  • Why they’re only permitted one additional young person in the car with them while driving

What Are the Risks of Being a Teen Driver?

Teen drivers are the most at risk for experiencing car accidents and, unfortunately, injuries or fatalities from such accidents. Inexperience, not using seat belts, speeding, distracted driving, alcohol use and/or substance use are all risks of being a teen driver. Teens are more likely than adults to underestimate or not recognize dangerous situations, including making critical decision errors that result in a crash. Teenagers are less likely than their adult counterparts to wear seat belts, which leads to higher injuries and fatalities among young drivers.

Because young drivers are so inexperienced, distracted driving is especially dangerous for them. Teens are also more likely to speed when behind the wheel. Since teens – especially males – are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as drinking and driving or using substances and driving, they are at an increased risk of crashing while under the influence.

The 3 C’s of Defensive Driving Your Teen Needs to Know

It’s important to remind your teen about the three C’s of Defensive Driving: Conditions Constantly Change. This means that anything can happen in the blink of an eye, and your teen needs to be aware of their surroundings and, most importantly, pay attention while behind the wheel. Teach them not to depend on other drivers and to be considerate to others but to look out for themselves. Do not assume another driver is going to allow you to pass or merge; instead, expect other drivers to run through red lights and speed through stop signs and be prepared to react. Teach your teen to plan for worst-case scenarios.

Some basic tips for defensive driving include:

  • Always think safety first and foremost.
  • Pay attention and be aware of surroundings at all times.
  • Do not rely on other drivers to follow the law.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Have an escape route in case you need to pull to the side of the road.
  • Separate risks so you don’t become overwhelmed with them while behind the wheel.

How Can I Participate in National Teen Driver Safety Week?

It’s important that you as a parent participate in National Teen Driver Safety Week. You can do so by scheduling regular driving practice times with your teen, even once they are licensed without restrictions. You can also collaborate with your child and make a parent-teen driving agreement, where you clearly write out the rules of driving and place it somewhere where everyone in your home can see it – for instance, the refrigerator or next to the car keys.

It’s good to practice safe driving in front of your teen, not only just during National Teen Driver Safety Week but always. Know the GDL laws and follow them, and make sure your teen knows and follows them.

How Can Parents Help Their Children Become Safe Drivers?

The best way to teach your teenager to become a safe driver is by demonstrating safe driving skills yourself. Don’t engage in risky driving behavior and then expect your teen not to do the same. Remember, they are always watching, and teens practice what they learn.

While celebrating National Teen Driver Safety Week, it’s also important to keep your young driver’s vehicle safe. Visit our Shop Talk blog for more safety tips and to learn more about how Caliber can protect you and your family.

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