Car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in California. Nearly 20,000 16-to-19 year olds are killed or injured in collisions annually, and roughly one in five teens will be in a crash during the first year of driving.
Because driving involves great risks of personal injury and property damage, and driver education only deals with driving skills, parents need to do the following to make their teens safe drivers:
- Know and understand your teen. Not all are responsible enough to drive at 16.
- Set a good example by following all traffic laws and safety rules when you drive.
- Select a high-quality driving school that encourages parental involvement and progress reports.
- Create a written parent-teen driving agreement that specifies rules, conditions, restrictions, and consequences of driving behavior. State that driving and drinking don’t mix.
- Have your teen drive the safest vehicle the family owns, and make sure he or she is properly insured.
- Set a schedule for regular practice driving sessions with your teen. They should be no longer than 45 minutes. Be direct with your instructions and keep your comments as simple as possible. Stress defensive driving.
- Set a time each week to discuss safe driving.
- Discourage driving at night and with passengers.
- Make sure your teen gets enough sleep. Driving while drowsy can be as risky as driving while intoxicated.
- Stress the need for total concentration on driving, and avoidance of distractions from using cell phones or text messaging.
- Stay out of cars that others might drive in an unsafe manner.
- Teach basic vehicle mechanics and what to do in case of an accident or emergency.
- Stress the criticality of all persons in the vehicle wearing seat belts.
Another reason for parents to be concerned about their children's driving is that parents are legally responsible for any injuries and damage that their minor children might cause while driving. Information about driving and traffic safety can be obtained by calling the SDPD Traffic Division's Community Relations Office at (858) 495-7822.
Another good source of information is the Automobile Club of Southern California’s website. Visit its page on teen driving safety at http://www.aaa-calif.com/auto/safety/teens.aspx. It has links to California’s provisional driver’s licensing program and an example parent-teen driving agreement. The former, in California Vehicle Code Sec. 12814.6, states that during the first 12 months after issuance of a provisional license the licensee my not drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or transport passengers who are under 20 years of age unless accompanied and supervised by a licensed driver who is the licensee’s parent, a licensed driver who is 25 years of age or older, or a licensed or certified driving instructor. There are several exceptions to these restrictions, one being that the licensee can transport an immediate family member under the age of 20 if he or she has a signed statement from a parent verifying the reason and containing a probable date that the necessity of the transportation will have ceased.
Parents should also warn their children about staged accidents. These usually occur in one of two ways: (1) a group of people stage accidents and collect each other’s insurance money, or (2) individuals crash into innocent drivers to make their insurance premiums skyrocket. California is one of the top four states in the nation with this problem. For more information on staged accidents and videos on how they are set up go to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s website at www.nicb.org and click on Staged Accident Scenarios under Video/Audio Clips. Parents should then tell their children the following to avoid becoming a victim of a staged accident:
- Never tailgate. Leave enough space to stop if the vehicle in front of you stops. And look beyond that vehicle for changed traffic conditions that might cause it to slow or stop.
- Look over your shoulder for better visibility when backing out of a parking space or driveway. Don’t rely on your mirrors. And back out slowly.
- Drive defensively and be aware of your surroundings. Be extra cautious on freeway ramps, at stop signs, in parking lots, when merging into traffic, and making turns.
And if they’re ever involved in an accident, to do the following:
- Call 911 if anyone is injured.
- Take photos of damage to vehicles and injuries to people involved.
- Get the names and phone numbers of all people involved.
- Get the names and phone numbers of any persons who witnessed the accident.