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Back-to-School: Safety Tips for Teen Drivers and Their Parents

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 23-Aug-2007

Many teens with graduated or provisional driving licenses will soon resume their daily commutes to high school or college, presenting a good opportunity to brush-up on some safe driving skills. The automotive safety website, Teendriving.com, offers the following suggestions for teens to prevent accidents or injuries specifically while driving to and from school:

  • "Get to school five to ten minutes early and leave five minutes late to avoid the mad dash into and out from the parking lots. Many accidents happen when kids are rushing around.
  • If your school lot has perpendicular spaces (not angle parking), park in a space you can pull straight out of instead of having to back out. Backing out in crowed lots is tricky. Also, the Key Driving School has written me that pulling straight through a parking space is illegal in some states–so check your local traffic laws before using this tip.
  • Watch for kids getting on and off school buses–and don’t run into the school buses, either.
  • Go slow
  • Don’t leave valuables like wallets, shoes, leather jackets or sports equipment in your cars where they can be seen because they invite break-ins.
  • Always stop for school buses with flashing lights. The flashing lights mean that students are either getting on or off the bus–and may be crossing the street. Their safety depends on cars obeying this law.
  • Don’t park in fire lanes around the school. Not only will you probably get a ticket, but you could be blocking the area where a fire truck needs to park in case of an emergency."

While graduated or provisional drivers license laws in many states help reduce accidents among teen drivers, no law can substitute for parental involvement when it comes to helping teens develop driving skills and safe driving habits.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also offers these tips for parents to encourage safe and responsible behavior in young drivers:

  • "Don’t rely solely on driver education:  High school driver education may be the most convenient way to learn skills, but it doesn’t necessarily produce safer drivers…  Teen attitudes and decision-making matter more…  Peer influence is great but parents have much more influence than they are typically given credit for.
  • Know the law:  Become familiar with restrictions on beginning drivers. Enforce the rules.
  • Restrict night driving:  Most young drivers’ nighttime fatal crashes occur from 9 p.m. to midnight, so teens shouldn’t drive much later than 9. 
  • Restrict passengers:  Teen passengers in a vehicle can distract a beginning driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking…  About 6 of every 10 teenage passenger deaths (59%) during 2003 occurred in crashes with a teen driver. 
  • Supervise practice driving:  Take an active role in helping your teenager learn how to drive.  Plan a series of practice sessions in a wide variety of situations, including night driving.  Give beginners time to work up to challenges like driving in heavy traffic or on the freeway.  Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after a teenager graduates from a learner’s permit to a restricted or full license. 
  • Remember that you’re a role model:  New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving.  Teens with crashes and violations often have parents with poor driving records. 
  • Require safety belt use:  Don’t assume that belt use when you’re in the car with your 16-year-old means belts will be used all the time, especially when your child is out with peers…  Insist on belts all the time.
  • Prohibit drinking:  Make it clear that it’s illegal and highly dangerous for a teenager to drink alcohol.  While alcohol isn’t a factor in most crashes of 16-year-old drivers, even small amounts of alcohol are impairing for teens.
  • Choose vehicles for safety, not image:  Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash…  Avoid  cars with performance images that might encourage speeding.  Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles — the smaller one, especially, are more prone to roll over."

Previously on the D.C. Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

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