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It happens every day: someone's child is injured or killed due to a motor vehicle accident. The statistics are alarming - each year approximately 7,000 teenagers are killed in car accidents and almost 300,000 are injured. These figures have remained fairly constant over the last 10 years. 

START WITH THE HOME TEAM:

Being a new driver is an exciting time for teens as they are anxious to exert their independence. At the same time, your concerns are multiplying because they have so many lessons to learn and choices to make - without you along for the ride. Amica believes you and your teen driver can get off to a great start by promising to drive safely.

It's also important for you to understand your state's licensing laws. Most states have enacted Graduated Driver Licensing laws which phase in driving privileges to help new drivers gain experience under lower risk conditions. Graduated licensing laws have reduced teen crash rates in the United States, but in order for them to be truly effective, they need to be enforced. You can play a role in supervising your young drivers and establishing rules based on the graduated model. In particular, ride along with your teen, require permission before using the car, limit passengers, and restrict night driving. Cautioning children not to use cell phones or other distractions while driving is also important - and setting a good example is key.

Parents must be responsible for the safety and reliability of the vehicle they permit their children to drive. A large majority of vehicles driven by teenagers are older models, often 10 or more years old. Make sure the car's safety features are in working order and that the vehicle size is neither too large nor small for your teen driver.

COMMON SENSE AT ANY AGE:

A large part of staying safe on the road is exercising common sense. Here are some important messages to discuss with your teen:

  • Always obey traffic laws. You'll be protecting a lot of people: other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and yourself. You'll also avoid fines, eliminate legal fees, and may ultimately save on insurance.
  • Avoid distractions. They may come from your cell phone, people riding with you, the radio, other drivers, or sights along the road. Driving carefully always comes first. Also, don't be talked into doing something foolish by your friends. Always think before you act.
  • Slow down. Nearly a third of all fatal accidents involve speeding. Stay within the posted speed limits and go slower in bad weather. Pass vehicles only where it's allowed and if there is plenty of passing room. Never tailgate. Drive very carefully at night, when the fatal crash rate for 16-year-old drivers is twice as high. Watch for other vehicles, bicycles, and other road obstructions.
  • Be alert to the condition of the road. Water, ice, debris, potholes, or other surface problems can lead to trouble. If traffic is heavy or there's roadwork, reduce your speed until things are clear.

DISCUSS THE RISKS:

Why do so many teens die in automobile accidents? Speeding is one reason. Most teens don't consider going 5 or 10 miles above the speed limit to be speeding - they feel they're merely keeping up with traffic. Studies have shown teens believed they were speeding if they were driving between 85 and 90 mph. Talk to your teenager about the dangers of speeding and, more importantly, place restrictions on going above the posted speed limit.

Parents need to talk to their children about the dangers of driving while using alcohol or drugs - do NOT assume your children are aware of the dangers. Underage drinking or drug use is serious enough, but combine these with driving, and you have all the ingredients for a serious accident. Alcohol is a factor in 24 percent of fatal accidents for drivers in the 16- to 20-year-old age bracket.

Seatbelt use is low among teens. Even though your teen may buckle up with you in the car, they may not be doing the same with their peers. Insist on the use of seat belts.

Be sure your teen understands that being a passenger in another teen's car can be just as dangerous as being behind the wheel. Most teens killed in crashes were riding in vehicles driven by another teen. It's important to know who your teen is riding with and to teach them how to think and act when you aren't there to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

TEEN INSURANCE RATES:

Statistically, young drivers have the worst accident record of any age group. This doesn't mean teens are assumed to be poor drivers; in fact, teens often have superior motor skills and response time. But teens have less experience, which increases the chance of making a mistake.

The best way to keep insurance rates down, now and in the future, is for your teen to keep a clean driving record. Your teen may also be eligible for driver education and good student discounts. Be sure to contact your insurance agent to discuss the discounts that are available.

ACCIDENTS HAPPEN - BE PREPARED:

There are more than 15 million accidents in the United States every year. This doesn't mean your young driver will have one, but he or she should know what to do in the event of an accident.

Here's what to say:

Stay calm, for your sake and that of all others involved. Your self-control is important in a situation where anger, panic, or other emotions can make things worse. If you can, find a safe place to pull over. Never get out of your vehicle until you know it's safe.

Call the police or emergency services. Be ready to tell them where you are and if there is an emergency situation. Even if there are no injuries, always notify police - and your parents - when you are involved in an accident.

When things are under control, call your insurance carrier. The company will guide you through the steps to take after an accident.

LEARN MORE:

Here is a U.S. government site where you can find more information about teen drivers:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/teenmvh.htm

For more information on licensing laws:

http://www.iihs.org/laws/graduatedLicenseIntro.aspx
Posted 11:20 AM  View Comments

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