Memorial Day marked the beginning of the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers, according to AAA. This period, spanning from Memorial Day to Labor Day, sees a significant increase in fatal car accidents involving teenagers. With the warm weather and increase in drivers on the road due to summer vacation, road dangers become more prominent. Educating teens on the importance of employing safe driving habits and roadway dangers to look out for is crucial to preventing tragedies. Here are a few ways to start the conversation:
Establish open and non-judgmental conversations
Initiating conversations with teenagers about safe driving should be rooted in a supportive environment. Listen actively, ask open-ended questions, and encourage them to share their thoughts and experiences. By fostering an environment free of judgment, teenagers are more likely to open up, actively participate in discussions and share concerns they may have.
Highlight the consequences
Teenagers often believe they are invincible and tend to overlook the potential consequences of reckless driving. Adults should take time to discuss the devastating effects of car accidents, emphasizing the lives lost or permanently altered due to irresponsible behavior. Share real-life stories and statistics to illustrate the severity of the issue.
Set clear expectations and rules
Establishing clear expectations regarding safe driving practices is crucial. Lay down specific rules such as obeying speed limits, wearing seat belts, and refraining from distractions like cell phones or loud music. Make sure rideshare apps are installed and ready to be used on their phones as good backup should their car not be available. Make clear that these rules are non-negotiable and reinforce them consistently. Encourage responsible decision-making by discussing scenarios and asking how they would handle different situations on the road.
Lead by example
Teens are more likely to imitate the behavior they witness. Therefore, it is essential for parents and adults to be role models of safe driving. Practice what you preach by adhering to traffic rules, avoiding aggressive driving, and demonstrating the importance of focused attention on the road. Teenagers will be more inclined to embrace these behaviors when they observe responsible driving habits from those they look up to.
Educate about the dangers of distractions
With the prevalence of smartphones, distractions while driving have become a significant concern. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a teen’s chances of crashing multiplies by six when dialing a phone and by 23 when texting. Meanwhile, State Farm’s 2023 Distracted Driving survey found that drivers who had their license for five years or less were significantly more likely to use smartphone apps and record and watch videos while driving than drivers who had been licensed for more than 10 years. Educate teens about the dangers of texting, talking on the phone, or using social media while driving. Discuss the potential consequences and encourage them to establish a habit of putting their phone away before starting the engine.
“We know that summer is a dangerous time on the roads for teens, even more now considering current impaired driving statistics. Teens must have the knowledge to make sound decisions and avoid driving under the influence or with someone who is intoxicated,” said Shreen Shavkani, Student Leadership Council National President of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). “Our youth-based advocacy will continue prioritizing roadway safety by encouraging our peers to make responsible decisions and to never hesitate in texting or calling a trusted friend or family member to arrange a safe & sober ride.”
As the “100 Deadliest Days” approach, it becomes crucial to engage in open and meaningful conversations with teenagers about safe driving. By establishing trust, emphasizing consequences, setting clear expectations, leading by example, and educating about distractions, we can instill responsible driving habits in our next generation. Together, we can ensure our communities roads are safe for everyone to arrive alive.