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Less Car Accidents When Teens Spend More Hours Practicing Driving

Your child is now a teenager, and it’s time for that awkward conversation. You’re probably anxious – dreading it, perhaps. Does Dad get the job? Or Mom and Dad together? Maybe you should leave it up to the school?

Well, teachers are educators, but parents need to be in on this one, too. Because what you teach your kid about driving will stay with them for a lifetime on the roads – hopefully a long lifetime! Colorado State Patrol Chief Colonel James Wolfinbarger reminds everyone that this is National Teen Driver Safety Week and nervous parents can now access lots of online resources for driver’s education.

The harsh facts cannot be ignored. Before anything else, you and your young adult must address the seriousness of driving a motor vehicle. In the United States as a whole, the fatality rate for 16- to 19-year-old drivers is four times that for 25- to 69-year-old drivers. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Simple driver error is a factor in two-thirds of fatal teen car crashes.
  2. Two-thirds of teen occupants killed in car accidents are not wearing seat belts.
  3. Two or more teen passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash when there’s a teen at the wheel.
  4. Staying awake for 18 hours is like having a BAC level of 0.08, which is legally drunk.
  5. The distractions proven to kill teens in car wrecks? Teen passengers and cell phones.

The degree of danger a driver faces on the roads relates directly to his or her level of inexperience, carelessness and tendency toward distractions. Naturally, adults even find these things hard to avoid. You have to remember, though, that you have hours and years of experience with driving, and that’s something that just can’t be handed over to your child. Practice makes perfect. In Colorado, especially, there are lots of challenges for a new driver. Practical experience driving the Front Range’s varied terrains, inclines and weather factors cannot be learned overnight, or even in a few months.

Teen drivers should not be allowed to transport peer or child passengers for the first 1,000 miles they drive (or 6 months) after earning a driver’s license. It may seem strange to put your child onto the roads without a buddy, but his or her alone time at the wheel is an essential part of developing good driving habits.

Once you’re sure your teen respects the roads, take advantage of the websites that can support your rules for driving. The Colorado Department of TransportationRide Like A Friend/Drive Like You Care, and Teen Driver Source all give you access to lesson plans, parent/teen contracts and practice logs that can make your kid the safest new driver in the neighborhood.

Since 1999, Colorado has enforced GDL (graduated driver license) laws to ensure that teen drivers are following traffic regulations, practicing driving skills and learning the rules of the road in measured increments. The number of teens killed in car crashes has decreased by 50% since the specialized license restrictions were put into place.