What parents can do to turn their teens into safer drivers
It's called the "100 deadliest days of summer" — the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. During that time, there is typically an increase in traffic fatalities on our roadways, especially among teen drivers.
AAA Midatlantic's Tracy Noble says more than 1,050 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving a teen driver in 2016 during the 100 deadliest days compared to the rest of the year. To put that in perspective, she says that averages to about 10 deaths per day during that time frame.
Noble says New Jersey is bucking the national trend. Teen driver and teen passenger deaths decreased to 17 and two, respectively, in 2017. While the number of teen driver deaths last year is not the lowest on record — 15 teen motorists lost their lives in 2015 — teen passenger deaths fell to a new low, according to data from the New Jersey State Police.
According to the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, since strengthening the New Jersey's Graduated Driver License law, teen driver-involved fatal crashes have fallen nearly 50 percent, from 85 in 2009 to 49 last year.
"While we have lots of protections in place, especially in New Jersey with our GDL law, there's still more work to be done," says Noble. The law does not address all the steps necessary to build a solid driving foundation mandating practice hours.
Noble says New Jersey is one of 46 states that currently does not have a practice hours component to the graduating drivers licensing law.
She says there needs to be more parental involvement and teens need to follow the rules of the road and respect the GDL protections. That includes the nighttime driving restrictions, the passenger restrictions and the fact they are not allowed to use any hand-held device or cell phone, even hands-free, while behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Parents can help their teen drivers stay safe by limiting their late-night and weekend driving. Even if teens are not drinking and driving, they are more likely to be killed in accidents caused by adults, says Scott Hadland, lead author of a study in The Journal of Pediatrics that looked at why children die in motor vehicle crashes.
But parents also need to be engaged and get their teen driver behind the wheel.
"Practice, practice, practice," insists Noble.
She says many parents are afraid to get into a car with their newly-licensed teen driver.
She says so let your teen drive to and from school, family trips and the grocery store. Get them comfortable driving in all weather conditions. That is what's going to make for a safer driver.