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New Driver Safety

One of the highlights of being in high school comes in the form of a driver's license. For many, the ability to drive a car is the first taste of being independent. But as great as it may feel to drive yourself to school and games and to visit friends, it should never be forgotten that driving can also be dangerous. In fact, in the United States, car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the dangers associated with driving a car. Although new drivers lack experience behind the wheel, caution and following basic safety rules can go a long way when it comes to driving safely.

Wear Safety Belts

Buckling up can be an easily forgotten step or may not seem necessary, particularly when driving short distances. Safety belts are in cars for a reason, though, and they are proven to reduce injuries and even death in many cases. Additionally, there are safety belt laws in nearly every state. Without a seat belt, occupants of a car are at risk of being ejected in a collision or thrown against the windows and into other passengers. Every person who rides in the car, including the driver, should always put on a seat belt before the car leaves its parking space. The driver should not start the car unless everyone cooperates and buckles up appropriately. When riding as a passenger, ask the driver to wait until your safety belt is on, even if driving a short distance.

Avoid Distractions

At any minute, day or night, there are interesting things happening. These things don't stop happening just because you're driving a car. Paying attention to these things, however, can cause accidents, injuries, and even death. Distractions such as talking on the phone, reading a text message, or putting on makeup while driving take a driver's attention off of the road. Even talking to a friend, eating, or looking at a fender-bender on the other side of the road are distractions that can prevent a driver from paying attention. When driving, prevent distracted driving by keeping your phone turned off and out of reach. Drivers shouldn't eat or drink while the car is in motion, and they should refrain from doing anything that takes their eyes, hands, or thoughts away from driving and the road. Wise practices include turning off the music and driving with no more than one passenger in the car. When driving with a friend, sibling, or anyone, keep talking and laughing to a minimum, and avoid any behavior or antics that are disruptive.

Don't Drink and Drive

Drunk driving is one of the most talked-about concerns when it comes to the risks associated with teen driving. Statistically, the threat is undeniable. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 10 high-schoolers drinks and drives. Drivers 16 to 20 years old with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration are as much as 17 times more likely to die in a car crash than if they had not consumed alcohol. Not only is drinking alcohol as a minor illegal, but it also makes you less alert and reactive while driving. It also hinders good judgment and decision-making, which is crucial when operating a car. Friends can help friends not drink and drive by encouraging them to not drink while at parties. If you are unable to stop a friend from drinking, stop them from driving by taking their keys, refusing to ride with them, and calling a responsible adult. Making a promise to yourself and your parents is also another way to help you avoid driving drunk.

Don't Drive While Tired

Late nights studying, getting up early for school, after-school jobs, sports, and other extracurricular activities are all things that lead to drowsiness. As a teen, feeling tired isn't uncommon, as you'll generally need more sleep than an adult; however, being sleepy can be dangerous when cars and driving are involved. Driving while tired reduces your ability to focus and judgment and slows reaction time. It also increases the risk of falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into other vehicles or objects. To prevent this from happening, get at least eight hours of sleep at night, don't take medication that causes sleepiness, and don't drive when fatigued. If drowsiness starts while you are on the road, pull over and call a parent or friend.

  • A Teen's Biggest Safety Threat Is Sitting in the Driveway: Click this link to the National Safety Council's site to watch a three-minute video on teen driving safety and review information about household rules and teen crashes.
  • Safety Tips for Teen Drivers: This link to the Insurance Information Institute's site features tips that may help improve teenage driving safety. The article is directed toward parents and what they can do.
  • Avoiding Accidents: Visitors to this page can read up on driving tips and ways to avoid getting in an accident as a new driver.
  • Some Safe Driving Tips for When You're in the Driver's Seat: On this page, there are safe driving tips listed for teens. Tips cover basic driving safety, distracted driving, and night driving.
  • TeensHealth: The Key to Defensive Driving: The information on this page offers useful information on defensive driving.
  • Talking, Texting Teen Drivers Take Deadly Toll: This Health Library article on the University of Chicago Medicine website offers information on distracted driving and its consequences.
  • Teen Safety Tips: Useful information on teen driving safety is listed in three categories on this page for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. While the first category is directed toward new drivers, the other two sections are tips for parents.
  • Teen Safe Driving Risk Factors: Click this link to review the accident risk factors that are common among teenage drivers. On this page, visitors can read about nine of the more common mistakes teens make when it comes to driving.
  • Safe Driving for Teens: This New York Times guide provides safe driving tips and information that is useful for both teens and their parents.
  • Car Safety: Read this car safety page on the Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation website for tips on avoiding injury and defensive driving. The page also includes facts and statistics.
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