A recent study from State Farm Insurance found that only 22% of parents talk regularly with their teen children about safe driving responsibilities - and that many teen drivers still believe texting and driving is less dangerous than drunk driving. The study found that 57% of licensed teen drivers admit to texting and driving: while 83% of those surveyed acknowledged that drinking and driving leads to car accidents, only 63% expressed the same attitude towards texting while behind the wheel.
Distracted driving, drunk driving, and the general inexperience of teenagers combine to cause many car accidents on Missouri roadways. In 2010, a Missourian was injured or killed every 35.5 minutes in an accident involving a teen driver, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. In general, young drivers are 4 times more likely to crash per mile driven. For our Missouri personal injury lawyers, these are staggering statistics.
How can parents help reduce teen accidents?
Many schools provide driving classes and drunk-driving damage demonstrations. These courses include statistics, real stories, videos and photographs to convey a powerful message that drunk driving and distracted driving on Missouri roadways is dangerous and leads to serious injuries and death. Some courses bring an actual vehicle that was totaled in a drunk-driving accident.
However much it seems that your teen doesn't listen to you, studies show that parents and respected care-givers still have much influence. What's more, the State Farm study showed that parents and teens actually talk less about safe driving practices after the teen becomes licensed - during the time period when these conversations are the most crucial.
The news is full of celebrities who use poor judgment while driving, and these examples provide cautionary tales that can help you demonstrate the very real risks. For example, many teenagers were affected by the death of Jackass movie star, Ryan Dunn. Dunn and a friend (newly married Iraqi war veteran Zachary Hartwell) both died after Dunn chose to drink and then drive 130 miles per hour. He lost control of his Porsche, which traveled 40 yards off the roadway where it hit a tree and exploded.
Also, Utah State teenager Taylor Sauer's parents have used their daughter's tragedy to demonstrate the real dangers of texting and driving to other teens. Sauer's last Facebook message, posted seconds before she slammed into a slow moving tanker truck, was this: "I can't discuss this matter now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha." Sauer never even attempt to brake: she smashed into the truck at 80 mph and was killed instantly.
There are other ways you can help your teenager get the message.
What can parents do to promote safe driving practices?
• Be a model and be a safe driver yourself.
• Never text and drive. Pull over to text and to make or take calls.
• Never drink and drive.
• Turn the music on low (and discuss how conversations can be a distraction too).
• Give your teen regular positive reinforcement and constructive criticism regarding his or her driving skills.
• Make sure that your teen knows not to get into a car with someone who has been drinking or who practices distracted driving.
• Offer to pick up your teen if he or she is ever in an unsafe situation. Or stress that they call someone for a ride, if not you.
• Remember to emphasize what was done right. Reward good judgment and avoid consequences when this judgment is used in order to promote this better behavior.
• Emphasize the dangers of distracted and drunk driving.
These conversations with your teen are not always easy: however, they are absolutely necessary. In fact, they may just keep your teen driver alive.