To help teen drivers navigate this year's "100 Deadliest Days" — that is, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day — the National Safety Council (NSC) has enlisted parents to be the primary influence for steering novice drivers during the summer months.
According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in 2016, more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver, a 14 percent increase compared to the number of fatalities for the rest of the year.
"We all know that a newly licensed driver, of any age, probably does not know how to function in all kinds of situations," reminded Alex Epstein, NSC's Director of Transportation Safety . "So the education is an ongoing process."
Epstein indicated that a parent's role is really just beginning once their teen obtains their driver's license or learner's permit.
"There's all kinds of situational awareness that ad river needs to get under their belt. And the best way for a teen to do that is to do it with an experienced driver."
The following checklist is the most effective way to ensure a robust, but not burdensome, approach to your young driver's continued training:
Practice Defensive Driving
Teach your teen to always anticipate the actions of other drivers and be wary of unexpected hazards.
"Teens should always remember that their safest way of driving is to drive defensively," Epstein offered. "We need to be able to recognize hazards before they become dangerous situations. That might be refuse on the roadway, car parts that are left there after a crash, potholes, [or] standing water.
"Teens need to learn how to recognize what those potential issues are — how to recognize them, how to process that information to figure out an evasive action, and [then] take that action."
Avoid Impairment and Distractions
Due to a young driver's relative inexperience behind the wheel, he/she should never compound the difficulty of the task with impairment of any kind. This includes any substance — including prescription or over-the-counter drugs — and fatigue.
"Distractions include things such as your GPS system, and when do you properly program that,"added Epstein. "And clearly the answer to that is, don't program it while you're driving. Don't program any of your electronics while you're driving."
Additionally, stay away from phone calls, even if you're using Bluetooth technology.
"We at the National Safety Council believe that phone calls are distracting, and it's not about the device, it's about the fact that your mind is engaged with the call and can't focus on the task of driving," explained Epstein. "So don't make any phone calls [and] never text and drive, not even at stoplights."
Practice with your Teen
"You don't have to set it up as a 'practice session,'" Epstein admitted. "You can just say to your teen, 'Hey, let's drive to...' Maybe it's the mall. Maybe it's their favorite fast food restaurant that they like to frequent. It doesn't have to be a long trip — 30 minutes a week is all that we would suggest that you do."
Epstein also reinforced that — although Delaware's Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws allow for one non-family member to be a passenger during the 12-month Level One Learner's Permit period — parents should strongly consider prohibiting any other passengers, especially other teenagers, during the both the supervised and unsupervised periods.
"Passengers tend to be distracting, especially a peer," Epstein summarized.
Understand your Vehicle's Safety Systems
Just as modern vehicles are equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems — or ADAS — to enable drivers to avoid crashes, parents must be equally equipped with their familiarity in order to properly educate the novice driver of these systems.
Such features include blind spot monitors, backup cameras, and lane centering assist.
"[The National Safety Council] believes these features should always be activated," confirmed Epstein. "But while these systems sometimes seem magical — because they can hold your speed or they could keep you in lane — they're really no self-driving. The driver is still the car's best safety feature."
Check your Car for Recalls
"One quarter of all vehicles that are on the road today have an open safety recall," Epstein revealed. "All of these recalls will be fixed for free, by the dealer, and all you have to do is bring it in [to them]."
To ensure that parents, and their teens, have reliable automobiles at their disposal, National Safety Council operates Check to Protect. By simply entering the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), a user can learn of any open safety recall which might impact the vehicle's integrity.
Because teen drivers are risky by nature, National Safety Council insists that parents are the key. So, like a teacher does during the school year, lead by example this summer — and stay involved.
"If parents expect their teens to drive well, they have to model the driving behaviors they would like their teens to emulate."