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Teenagers are the ones going to school, but on one pop quiz, it was the parents who failed.
The National Safety Council commissioned a survey studying teen driving, and the survey found that 76 percent of parents were unaware that the greatest risk to teens was car crashes. These parents believed that drugs or alcohol, bullying or the internet were greater threats to the safety of today's teenagers.
That's a shame, because we also know that the people best positioned to prevent teens from being part of tragic car crashes are their parents. The parents understand why the crashes happen – 72% of parents correctly pointed to lack of experience or poor decision making as leading crash factors – but they are not doing everything they could to improve experience or decision making. The survey found that 44% of parents surveyed did not supervise their teens' driving for the recommended amount of time during the restricted licensing stage, and too few parents said they enforced rules that could reduce crash risks.
The risks aren't surprising. Crash risks are twice as high at night, and they rise 44% with just one young passenger in the car. Distractions play a role in 58% of teen-involved crashes, with 12% attributed to cell phone use. No parent – myself included – would look at these factors and be surprised by them. But too many parents aren't limiting their teens' driving at night or their driving with teen passengers, and they are not finding ways to keep distractions to a minimum.
There are a lot of resources available to both parents and teens when it comes to improving behind-the-wheel behavior, and some of them can be found at DriveitHOME.org, where there are tips, driving lessons, videos and resources on how parents can coach new teen drivers.
The results of the survey show us what we need to teach parents, and I hope anyone reading this will share it with the parents they know. As a mother myself, I am constantly aware of the dangers of substance abuse, bullying and the Internet. But it's a car crash that's most likely to hurt one of my children, so I'm trying to educate them about what they can do to be safe.
I hope you'll do the same for your teens.