As Teen Driver Safety Week continues across Delaware and the nation, local and regional stakeholders are emphasizing the importance of adults' interaction with a novice driver's development behind the wheel and on the open road.
In releasing advisories which put the spotlight on safe teen driving behavior, both Safe Kids Delaware--a coalition of state agencies and partners committed to preventing unintentional child injury--and AAA Mid-Atlantic actually put the onus on parents' habits.
"Younger people need to see the parents setting the example," suggested Ken Grant, AAA Mid-Atlantic's Manager for Public & Government Affairs. "And we're emphasizing that parents need to set [that] good example for their children long before they're getting behind the wheel as a teen driver."
Sarah Cattie, Traffic Safety Program Manager for Delaware Office of Highway Safety, supported that recommendation.
"One of the things that's really important is making sure that you serve as a good example for your kids," she reiterated. "That's not just teenagers, that starts when they're little. They see everything that you do, they watch everything you do."
Both organizations stressed that the distraction of using mobile phones while driving is probably the most prominent of habits which need to avoided.
"[AAA Mid-Atlantic has] a phrase we're starting to use about 'intexticated driving,'" Grant revelaed, "and you should be hearing a lot more of that in 2019. That's another practice that we're trying to avoid as much as possible and, again, it's up to parents to set that example."
Cattie was careful not to suspend any burden for the teen driver, however.
"When your teenagers see that you [employ safe driving habits], and they see that it's important as part of their responsibility as a driver, then they will continue to use those habits."
It's important that they learn the best example because, according to recent research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, your own life could depend on it. Based on analysis of crash data from 2016, someone other than the teen driver is more likely to die in a fatal crash.
"In Delaware [that year], while no teen drivers themselves were killed on the roads, crashes involving teen drivers did kill one passenger in the vehicle with a teen driver, four occupants in other vehicles, and three pedestrians and cyclists," shared Grant.
In contrast to Delaware's eight teen driver-related fatalities, Maryland logged 33 fatalities in 2016, with New Jersey at 47, and Pennsylvania at an incredulous 103 fatalities.
"We're finding that when a teen driver has other teens in the car, without adult supervision, things tend to get a lot more dangerous," Grant revealed. "The risk behavior is increased. And it seems if you have a group of teenagers, there is an exponential factor there. They may be trying to show off for each other, engaging in riskier behavior behind the wheel than they would normally, or just being distracted by their friends."
To help parents navigate these "slippery slopes," Safe Kids Delaware offers the following top driving safety tips intended for teenage drivers:
- Talk to your teens about how to be safe while driving. Remind teens to follow traffic signals and laws, make eye contact with pedestrians, and enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
- Make a formal agreement with your teen and enforce it.
- Ensure your new teen driver gets at least 50 hours of experience under a variety of driving conditions. Having more experience behind the wheel helps new drivers manage driving in the dark and driving with other teen passengers in the car, situations that can increase the likelihood of crashes for young drivers. Note: AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends 100 hours of supervised driving, using a variety of driving conditions.
- Take action against distraction. Teach teen drivers to put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until their final destination.
- Be alert around neighborhoods and schools. When driving, be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones and be on the lookout for bikers, walkers or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly.
- Watch out for pedestrians. Give pedestrians the right of way and look both ways when making a turn to help spot any bikers, walkers or runners who may not be immediately visible.
For additional information, in observance of National Teen Driver Safety Week, Delaware OHS will be hosting a chat on Twitter, using #DEteensincars, on Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 5 p.m. EDT. An archived Q&A will thenbe posted at the Twitter page following the chat.