For most teens, learning to drive is their way of making a major leap towards adulthood. This rite of passage is exciting for teens, but scary for parents. There is good news, though. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the past decade, drunk driving fatalities in people under the age of 21, per a population of 100,000 people, has decreased by 49 percent.
In 1982, when the NHTSA started tracking statistics relating to drunk driving, the number of fatal crashes involving drivers under 21 was at a record high of 80 percent or 5,215 teens, compared to 10 percent or 1,021 teens in 2015.
Although the numbers look positive, there are some sobering statistics, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every single day, six teens die in a car accident, but the saddest news of all is that there are many ways these accidents could have been prevented.
Crash Prevention Awareness: Understanding the Risk Factors
According to the CDC, the risk is the highest for teens being in a motor vehicle accident in the first year of receiving their driver’s license. The top risks include:
- Impaired Driving – Such as drunk, drugged or drowsy driving. What parents can do:
- Teach your teen to always be well-rested before they drive anywhere and never let them go out driving if you know they are fatigued.
- Learn all you can about impaired driving and teens and teach by example by never drinking before driving.
- Strengthen their commitment to avoiding impaired driving by signing a parent-teen driving agreement or contract.
- Distracted Driving – Such as texting, eating, drinking, music and other passengers. What parents can do:
- For the first six months of having their license, follow the local teen passenger laws or restrict your child to having one or no passengers at all.
- Educate yourself on distracted driving and restrict any activities that you think may distract your teen when operating a motor vehicle. This includes eating, texting, talking and listening to loud music, or fiddling with the radio, mirrors or other controls.
- Reckless Driving – Speeding, lack of seatbelt use, crossing lanes and not driving according to road conditions. What parents can do:
- Be certain your teenager is mature enough to follow speed limits and other road rules.
- Lead by example from the first time your child is in the car with you by always being courteous to other drivers and following the rules of the road.
- Teach your teen how to change their speed and driving technique according to various driving circumstances, like bad weather, nighttime vision restrictions and construction zones.
- Make sure your teen driver keeps plenty of space between their car and the vehicle in front of them to be prepared due to unexpected braking.
- Reduce your teen’s risk of dying or being badly injured in a crash by approximately half by requiring them to use their seat belt every time they get in a car, whether they are driving or not.
- Inexperienced Driving – Not having enough road time, not understanding or remembering rules of the road, not knowing how to react in various driving situations. What parents can do:
- Practice – Let your teen practice on various types of roads and weather conditions, as well as different times of the day and year.
- Time – The minimum amount of time to practice driving should be 30 to 50 hours over the course of six months.
- Teaching – Parents need to constantly remind their teens to stay focused on the road and signage, and to be alert for potential dangers, like pedestrians, bicyclists, other motorists and train crossings.
Creating a Teen-Parent Driving Contract or Agreement
A parent-teen driving agreement or contract makes sure you and your teen both understand their driving limits and expectations. It also lets them know what will happen when they break the rules and what dangers they need to avoid. Be sure to keep it in a common area, such as the family bulletin board or on the refrigerator. You can update it as your teen gains more experience, too.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
- CDC Parent-Teen Driving Agreement – A .pdf document you can simply download, edit and sign.
- New Driver Deal – Offered in partnership with the National Safety Council, the GM Foundation, The National Road Safety Foundation and Volkswagen, this online tool works as a reference for your teen on issues like safety, maintenance and sharing a vehicle with other family members.
- SAAD Contract for Life – Provided by Students Against Destructive Decisions, this contract is available as a free shopping cart purchase at sadd.org.
Practice Graduated Driving
Manage the driving scope in your teen’s early years using the graduated driver licensing (GDL) system provided by most states. You can learn your state’s specifics here. Although GDL laws vary depending on the state, they generally include three phases according to the type of license, as well as local restrictions and provisions. Teens must show driving proficiency, maturity and responsibility in order to advance to the next phase, which includes:
- Phase One – This is the learner’s permit phase when the driver is at the minimum age, has driven for a minimal amount of time and needs supervision when operating a vehicle.
- Phase Two – This is the provisional or intermediate license phase with restrictions, such as nighttime driving and passengers.
- Phase Three – This is full licensing with no restrictions or provisions, unless the teen must use corrective lenses, for example.
- GDL Calculator – This tool, offered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), explains the five components of the latest graduated driver licensing laws and how they minimize teen accidents and motor vehicle fatalities.
- CDC GDL Facts – This site offers information, statistics and tools for following a GDL.
No Need to Go It Alone: Online Resources for Parents
- Impact Teen Drivers and What Do You Consider Lethal – This program based in California focuses on preventing teen driver crashes and stopping fatal accidents.
- Parents are the Key – This program has been initiated by the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to offer helpful resources for parents with teen drivers.
- Parent Central – This website on vehicle safety for parents is the brainchild of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Power of Parents – An informational portal with the goal of changing teen behavior in relation to alcohol, provided by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
- Safe Kids USA – Helps teens ages 13 to 15 get prepared to learn to drive.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation – Offers tests on all vehicles and provides an annual list of the safest cars to drive.
The FAQs of Irresponsible Driving
Teens are more likely to follow the rules when they understand the reasons behind them. Here are some of the common questions teens ask, along with the answers parents should provide:
- How do alcohol and drugs impair one’s ability to drive? Medications and alcohol can slow down your reaction time, which can be deadly on the road, but they can also cause:
- Blurred vision
- Impairment of focus
- What is an OUI, DUI or DWI? Depending on the state, the acronyms for charging a driver for operating under the influence varies. To learn the proper acronyms for your state, visit this page.
- What does BAC mean? This acronym stands for blood alcohol concentration percentage, which, for most states is at or above 0.08 percent. A lower BAC may still affect you, depending on your age and circumstances.
- What are open container laws? Any drunk driving charge can be enhanced by the charge of having an open container of alcohol inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
- What happens when someone gets arrested for a DUI? Depending on the state, this is what usually happens:
- You’ll be taken into custody and booked for a misdemeanor DUI until you either sober up, appear before a judge or magistrate, and/or pay a bond or bail. You could be charged with a felony DUI if:
- It is a repeat drunk driving offense or you have a poor driving record.
- You have a child in the car with you.
- Your impaired driving causes personal injury or death.
- If you are driving with a revoked or suspended license.
- If your BAC is unusually high.
- Your vehicle will be impounded.
- Until your file determines the specific penalties you’ll face, your license will be temporarily suspended or you’ll be put under temporary driving restrictions or privileges.
- You will need to hire a lawyer, or the court will assign a public attorney to represent you.
- Your official trial date will be established, where you’ll have an official hearing and receive a final judgement along with any related penalties.
- You can hire your own lawyer or the court will assign one to you.
- You’ll be taken into custody and booked for a misdemeanor DUI until you either sober up, appear before a judge or magistrate, and/or pay a bond or bail. You could be charged with a felony DUI if:
- How do I find out about my local DUI laws? The best thing to do is to visit your state’s official government pages, in particular, the Department of Motor Vehicles, but you can also check here.
- How does a DUI affect my car insurance in the future? Your rates will increase, or your provider may even refuse to renew your policy, because they will label you as a high risk driver. In addition, you may have to file the SR22 form to prove you have fulfilled your state’s insurance requirements for a certain amount of time.
- What is the SR22? Also called the FR44, the Statement of Responsibility, or the SR22, is required by most states to officially show you have adequate car insurance coverage.
- Why do some states require an SR22? This type of form can help you reinstate or retain your driving rights following a traffic offense, but it can also be required when you:
- Receive multiple citations for traffic violations, such as speeding, within a short amount of time.
- Drive without insurance and get into an at-fault type of accident.
- Are convicted of a DUI, OUI or DWI.
- Want to reinstate a revoked or suspended license.
- How do you get an SR22? Most drivers learn they need an SR22 from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in their state or via a court order. Your insurance company has to file the SR22 with the state’s DMV, but not all insurance companies offer them.
- What are the ramifications of filing an SR22? In general, you have to retain your SR22 for at least three years, and it could raise your rates, depending on your insurance company. Some insurance companies will drop drivers who need an SR22 due to the increased risks; however, most states offer insurance risk programs for high-risk drivers. The initial, one-time fee for filing an SR22 is approximately $25.
Protecting Your Teen: Balancing Car Insurance Rates with Coverage
Teen drivers pay more for car insurance than their adult counterparts because insurance companies see them as a higher risk. This is because of many variables, including lack of maturity, experience and good judgement; however, the rates will lower as teens grow older and the accident risk goes down, usually around the age of 25.
Here are some additional tips for parents:
- Add your teen to your existing policy. Your rates may increase, but in general, rates are lower when teens are added to their parent’s policy, compared to getting their own. When to add them, whether at the learner’s permit phase or the license phase depends on your state, so be sure to ask your insurance company. The only exception is if your teen has an older car of low value. In this case, they can get their own policy and skip the optional items, like collision or comprehensive coverage.
- Enlist in your teen to help lower your rates. Some insurance companies will provide discounts to students who have a high grade average or who avoid accidents and violations, maintaining a good driving record. If your teen takes an approved driving instruction program, you may get a discount, as well.
- Encourage safer driving in your teen. Talk to your teen about safe driving and be a good example. Create clear rules for driving, sign a driving agreement with your teen, and install apps or devices to monitor their driving habits.
- Shop around for a family-friendly policy. Get quotes from a variety of companies, since rates can vary wildly. You can call around or even compare rates online.
- Ask about discounts. If your child is attending college in another state, they may qualify for a resident discount; however, if they attend college closer or come home for vacations, you may need to cover them on your policy. Other requirements for lower student rates include being under 25 years of age, being enrolled in classes full time and having a grade point average above 3.0.
- The car affects the insurance cost. To lower your rates, avoid fancy sports cars designed to go fast, and instead go for cars with enhanced safety features, like rear cameras, crash protection and lane departure warnings, or a vehicle with a larger body.
Tech Resources: Apps and Gadgets for Parents and Teens
There are many devices, apps and gadgets to help teens drive safer and parents monitor their teen’s driving habits. They include:
- Black Boxes – Collect data on conditions and driving inside the vehicle that parents can access.
- GPS Monitors – Keep track of a vehicle’s range and speed, but can also provide geofencing, where parents can put limits on where their teen can drive. If they go outside the restricted area, parents can get a notification.
- Video Monitoring Systems – Records visual data both inside and outside the vehicle. Some capture data continuously, while others activate when an event occurs. Reports are available to parents if they sign up for a monthly subscription to receive them via email or their smartphones.
- Direct Feedback Systems – Parents will get an alarm, text or email when their teen driver gets too close to other cars or forgets to use their seatbelt.
- Smart Keys – Can be programmed to put parameters in place for a vehicle, including speed and radio volume.
- Smartphone Apps – Can block a teen driver’s ability to text, call, take selfies or go online when behind the wheel.
Thanks to awareness, regulations, modern tech tools and improved safety features in today’s vehicles, teen driving accidents rates will continue to decrease, but for now, there is a lot that parents and their young drivers can do to stay safer. By communicating and working together towards a common goal, your teenager can join the league of responsible and safe drivers.
Drinking Among College & High School Students
Many jurisdictions complain about underage intoxicated drivers. Many of these drivers come from college parties hosted in dorm rooms, college communities, and sometimes even high-school parties. Underage students fail to use their common sense when drinking alcohol as indicated by the statistical data gathered over the years. Roughly one-quarter of college students reported falling behind in their academic studies after partying too hard to keep up with school work. A significant percentage of college drinkers develop serious health problems. Others find themselves getting overly aggressive as they vandalize and destroy personal property. College binge drinking has been a big problem and campuses and university officials are trying various approaches to cut down on college drinking.
- A Snapshot of Annual High-Risk College Drinking Consequences — [Source: CollegeDrinkingPrevention.Gov]
- Why Do College Students Drink Excessively? — [Source: Ed.Gov]
- Underage College Students Drinking Behavior — [Source: Harvard.Edu]
- College Students: Drinking & Driving — [Source: Potsdam.Edu]
- Underage Drinking Fact Sheet — [Source: Iona.Edu]
Automobile Fatality Stats Among Teens
Although it’s not quite a death sentence, driving a car can put your child – or someone else – in an early grave. If you think this is an overly dramatic statement, check out these statistics:
- Car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in the U.S.
- Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to die in a crash than drivers between the ages of 25 and 69.
- Teens have the highest chance of having a fatal crash within the first six months of getting their driver’s license.
- 2,739 teenagers died in car accidents in the United States during 2008.
- 5,864 fatal accidents involved teen drivers in 2008. This number is higher than the previous one because the teen driver often has to live with the guilt of causing someone else’s death.
- Teen drivers were involved in 12% of all fatal crashes reported to the police.
- Males are twice as likely as females to be killed in a crash while they’re teenagers.
- 37% of male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 were speeding at the time of a fatal crash.
- 55% of teens killed in car crashes weren’t using their seat belts.
- 31% of teens drivers were drinking alcohol at the time of their death.
- Teen drivers were involved in 63% of teen passenger deaths and 19% of passenger deaths of all ages in fatal accidents.
- 53% of teen deaths in fatal accidents occurred on the weekends and 41% occurred between 9 pm and 6 am.
While the fatal crash is the worst case scenario, it’s not the only thing that can happen to your teen. Each year, accidents caused by teenagers cost millions of dollars in property damage and life-altering physical injuries. Maybe these startling facts will keep your young driver from playing crash-em-up derby with your car:
- Teen drivers are 10 times more likely to be involved in a crash during their first year of driving.
- Teen drivers with more than one teen passenger are twice as likely to be in an accident as a drunk driver.
- 16-year-olds have more accidents than any other age group – including older teens.
- Accidents caused by 15- to 17-year-old drivers caused $34 Billion in damage in the U.S. in 2006.
- 20% of reported accidents involving teen drivers.
Some teens seem to collect tickets like baseball cards and get in a string of accidents. Others breeze through this part of their life as safe drivers with a clean record. If you’d like to make sure your teen driver falls into the second category, here are the major risk factors to work on:
- Poor Ability to Detect Hazards – Most teens are still developing their ability to pick out hazards while driving during their early years behind the wheel. This skill develops over time as your driver gains experience.
- Poor Ability to Assess Risk – Most teen drivers lack the ability to accurately compare the potential risk of a hazard with their ability to avoid the threat. Usually, they underestimate the hazard and overestimate their skill level – a bad combination. This will also develop with time and experience.
- Overconfidence – Teenagers truly believe they’re expert drivers. After all, they did earn their license, didn’t they? Until they learn they’re not as skilled as they think, they’ll engage in dangerous habits like speeding, ignoring traffic lights and signs, tailgating, driving in hazardous weather, and failing to yield.
- Developing Skills – Many teen drivers are still developing the basic skills needed to safely control a vehicle under a variety of conditions.
- Passengers – Teen drivers increase their chances of having a crash by carrying passengers – especially other teenagers. This could be due to distractions, pressure to perform, or encouragement to break traffic rules.
- Driving at Night – Teen drivers are much more likely to be involved in a crash when they drive at night. This could be due to the higher difficulty involved with night driving or because risky behavior, like drinking, happens more often at night.
- Alcohol or Drug Use – Although teen drivers are less likely to get behind the wheel while using alcohol and drugs, they are more likely to be involved in an accident if they do.
The best thing you can do to encourage your teenager to practice good driving habits (and other types of habits, too) is to lead by example. Children of all ages don’t seem to do too good with that old “Do as I say, not as I do” adage. If you speed, don’t buckle up, drink and drive, chat on your cell phone, or let your road rage get the best of you, how can you expect your kid to do any better?
If you think your teen couldn’t care less about what you’re doing (or that they don’t even notice), here are a few more numbers – and these are for you:
- 66% of teens say they care what their parents think about cell-phone use while driving.
- 53% of teens say they’ve seen someone drive while impaired (maybe it’s a friend, maybe it was you).
- 56% of teens say they depend on their parents for driving instruction.
Limiting Early Driving for Safety
Even if your teen has their driver’s license, it doesn’t have to be an instant ticket to total freedom. Although you’ll be labeled the “bad” parent, you can restrict your teen’s driving habits to give them time to safely acquire the necessary experience before you turn them loose. Here are a couple strategies that work for many parents:
- Limit the Scope – Start your new teen driver off by only allowing them to drive within a certain region close to home. As they prove themselves, slowly extend the boundaries.
- Limit the Time – There’s nothing wrong with only allowing your teen driver to operate a vehicle by themselves during daylight hours until they’ve got more driving time under their belt.
- Restrict Passengers – Some parents only allow their teen driver to have one other passenger in the car for the first six months to a year of driving.
- Cell Phone Use – While it’s almost a requirement for teen drivers to have a cell phone in case of an emergency, tell your child to never, ever talk on their phone or, even worse, text while they’re driving – even if you’re the one calling. They can always pull over before calling back.
- Alcohol – Make sure your child knows that there’s no excuse for drinking and driving. This should include telling them that the penalty for calling for a ride home will always be less than driving home under the influence.
- The Really Strict Parent – Some parents don’t turn their child loose at all immediately after they get their license. Instead, the teen driver must drive the parent everywhere for a certain period of time to “earn” independent driving privileges. Keep in mind that this plan won’t win you any popularity contests.
What are the Legal Ramifications of Drunk Driving?
If a law enforcement officer performs a traffic stop on a suspected vehicle, he or she may ask the driver to take a sobriety test. A law enforcement officer will not ask a driver to take a sobriety test unless he or she can smell a strong stench of alcohol, hear slurred speech, or observe unusual behavior that indicates intoxication. A law enforcement officer cannot issue a DUI charge based on suspicion alone. If the driver demonstrates a lack of judgment or poor motor skills during the field sobriety test, then the officer can ask permission to perform a blood alcohol content (BAC) test. A law enforcement officer typically assesses a driver’s BAC level by administering a breathalyzer test. If the breathalyzer test shows a percentage of alcohol over the legal limit, then the driver may find themselves in a holding cell overnight at the nearest jail. As of 2011, all states in the US have adopted a legal limit of .08% blood alcohol content.
Many states have a lenient first-time offender policy; however, this does not always happen when sentencing repeat offenders. A first-time DUI or DWI conviction can result in a suspended or revoke driver’s license. A second and third-time offender may face prison time, lifetime suspension of a driver’s license, and enrollment into a court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation program.
- What is a DWI Court? — [Source: DWICourts.Org]
- DUI/DWI Laws — [Source: IIHS.Org]
- Repeat DWI Offenders — [Source: NHTSA.Gov]
- Arrest for DUI General Information — [Source: DMV.CA.Gov]
- The High Cost of Drinking and Driving — [Source: WVU.Edu]
- How DWI Contributes to Bad Credit – [Source: Auto.Loan]
What is a DUI or DWI?
Sober drivers complain about the safety of driving. Needless to say, the physical act of driving becomes increasingly difficult when you add alcohol into the equation. A significant number of traffic-related accidents, injuries, and deaths result from alcohol consumption before getting behind the steering wheel. As a result, many U.S. states have established strict laws revolving around drivers who operate vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. Some states refer to a violation of these laws as driving under the influence. Other states have nicknamed this violation as Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI. Many state DUI laws came into fruition after the federal government instated highway funding programs. While in many states the terms DUI and DWI are interchangeable, some states differentiate between DWI and DUI with the DUI being a lesser offense.
- Blood Alcohol Content Charts — [Source: Brad21.Org]
- Impaired Driving: Get the Facts — [Source: CDC.Gov]
- General Information on Impaired Driving — [Source: NCJRS.Gov]
- Driving While Impaired FAQ — [Source: UMN.Edu]
- What is DWI and DUI? — [Source: Cornell.Edu]
What is SR22 DUI Insurance?
Individual state laws require all drivers to keep liability insurance coverage on their vehicles. These laws serve to protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in the event a car collision occurs that significantly damages another person, their property, or their motor vehicle. If a driver ever gets convicted for driving under the influence (DUI), then the state Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will likely suspend their driver’s license. Many states require DUI convicts to pay steep fines and penalties, including a fee to have their driving privileges restored. In some cases, drivers will need to present a completed SR22 DUI form to their local DMV before they can have their driver’s license and motor vehicle registration reactivated. Drivers can gain a lot of benefits when they submit their SR22 DUI form, especially since it serves as a guarantee that the driver will keep automobile insurance on a car or truck for one year. An SR22 DUI form will also show the insurance companies that the driver can safely operate a vehicle on the highway.
Other traffic offenders can benefit from receiving SR22 insurance quotes. DUI convicts only serve as a small percentage of drivers who buy SR22 insurance. DUI convicts generally benefit the most by checking how much SR22 insurance cost, partly because they want to get the best price, but mainly because they want their license back with minimal hassle. According to the Insurance Research Council, the economic downturn may cause an upsurge in uninsured motorists, because many people have part-time jobs that only enable them to get by paycheck to paycheck. Therefore, many uninsured motorists may seek out cheaper alternatives, such as SR22 insurance. DUI offenders definitely need to find an adequate insurance plan or keep themselves off the road.
Drivers who think they can squeeze by without adequate auto insurance might find themselves in a rut one day. Uninsured motorists who get pulled over by a police officer or state trooper will receive a traffic citation if they cannot provide proof of insurance. This could also mean having one’s license and automobile registration suspended or revoked. Many DUI convicts disregard their license suspension, and hop behind the wheel. This can cause problems for DUI convicts without adequate automobile insurance. Reformed DUI convicts will wait until they can rightfully restore their driving privileges and submit a form for SR22 DUI insurance.
DUI convicts who choose to visit their local DMV center should keep an additional copy of the DUI SR22 form for their own personal records. Depending on the DUI convict’s driving penalties, the DMV may ask him or her to file a DUI SR22 form annually for a certain period of time, generally three years for a DUI. SR22 insurance plans usually require the driver to file a new SR22 DUI form with the DMV, especially when switching insurance companies. Drivers must also report to their DMV when they move from one state to another after receiving a DUI. SR22 insurance provides DUI convicts with the necessary protections before they take the road again. Other drivers can opt for an SR22 form, even if they do not have a DUI. Cheap SR22 insurance plans can save many drivers a lot of money, while saving lives at the same time.
- Strategies to Stop Drunk Driving — [Source: UTHSCSA.Edu]
- Insurance and the SR22 Form — [Source: Colorado.Gov]
- What Does SR22 Mean? — [Source: SD.Gov]