Prom Season Driving Tips For Teens, Parents

Teenagers often view themselves as invincible, but vehicle crashes prove the biggest threat to this vulnerable demographic.

“We are heading into one of the most deadly times of the year for teen drivers and passengers - with prom, graduation and beach week trips," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "Parents tend to worry most about the things we hear in the news, like cyber bullying and drug and alcohol use, but car crashes are the number one killer of teens.”

Safety advocates urge parents to discuss safe driving with their teen long before they ever get behind the wheel. Setting a good example as a safe and cautious driver is paramount. Your children are watching how you drive, whether you know it or not.

“When it comes to teaching our teens to drive, ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ can be fatal,” Hersman said. “Parents who make calls or send texts behind the wheel are sending a clear and dangerous message to their children: that distracted driving is acceptable.”

One National Safety Council study found 90 percent of parents surveyed used their cell phones while driving as their teens sat in the car.

Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied video of more than 1,700 crashes from cameras mounted inside vehicles. They focused on the final six seconds before impact and found distraction was a factor for teens in almost 60 percent of accidents.

Fifteen percent of the time those teen drivers were talking with passengers, the foundation reported. Another 12 percent occurred as the driver used a cell phone. Grooming, singing along to music and reaching for an item were other common distractions for teens.

Among the most common teen mistakes cited by safety experts:

1) Speeding. Speeding reduces reaction time and is perhaps the most obvious mistake young drivers make. Speeding was a factor in 31 percent of teen driver fatalities in 2016, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

2) Texting. This threat began during the the last decade or so and has quickly reached epidemic levels. Distracted driving accounts for about 60 percent of all moderate to severe crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

3) Not buckling up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports about 25 percent of teenage drivers don’t use a seat belt. NHTSA studies repeatedly indicated more than half of teenagers involved in fatal crashes were not restrained at the time of impact.

4) Inattentive driving. Young, inexperienced drivers may be more likely to become distracted, leading to collisions. The National Organization for Youth Safety reports 58 percent of teens involved in crashes are distracted.

5) Impaired driving. No one under the age of 21 can buy alcohol. The NHTSA reports 31 percent of teens who died in automobile accidents had at least a .01 blood alcohol content. While alcohol typically gets most of the attention when talking about intoxicated driving, recent studies indicate prescription medicine is commonly found in the systems of drivers killed in car crashes.