teen driver with adult in passenger seatIt has been ten years since the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a new campaign directed toward increasing the safety of teenage drivers. This campaign, originally called “5 To Drive,” has evolved and expanded to be an annual week-long observation each October: “Teen Driver Safety Week.”

This week is designed to help parents, guardians, and other adults in a teenage driver’s life have important conversations with teens about how to stay safe behind the wheel. These rules have been designed to address what have been proven to be the greatest dangers for teen drivers:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Inconsistent or no seat belt use
  3. Distracted and drowsy driving
  4. Speeding
  5. Number of passengers in the vehicle

Virginia Teen Driver Safety Facts

There’s a reason auto insurance rates are higher for teen drivers—they are more likely to engage in risky behavior that can cause accidents. Motor vehicle crashes are the primary cause of death for U.S. teenagers aged 15-18. The danger exists for teen drivers as well as other motorists: more than 2,600 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in 2021, with more than 860 of those killed being the teenage drivers.

Parents, guardians, and other adults have the potential to positively influence teen drivers and what choices they make when behind the wheel.

Every Week Should Be Teen Driver Safety Week

Each October, NHTSA’s Teen Driver Safety Week focuses on educating teenagers on driver safety and encourages parents and guardians to have honest discussions with their teenagers about safe driving practices. The campaign includes a simple, 7-point checklist for teens designed to prevent accidents:

7 Teen Driving “Rules for the Road”

  1. Wear a seat belt and ensure all passengers do, too.
  2. No speeding. Approximately 1/3 of teen car crashes involve speeding.
  3. No distractions. This includes texting and cellphone use, radios, eating or drinking while driving, and conversations with passengers.
  4. No extra passengers. Overcrowding can lead to distraction or unbuckled passengers.
  5. No alcohol. Nearly one in five teen drivers in fatal crashes had been drinking.
  6. No drugs.
  7. No impairment-causing medications. This includes over-the-counter or prescription medications.

The list is designed to focus on the highest contributors to teen driver accidents, car crash injuries, and deaths.  

Teens Can Be Safe Driving Influencers for Their Peers

This teen safety campaign also encourages teen drivers to model safe driving behavior for their peers. Many young people tend to follow what their friends are doing, so if a teen is modeling safe driving and making it clear that safety on the road is important, others who ride with that driver might adopt the same behaviors and practices when they are behind the wheel. Talk to your teen about safe driving for themselves, modeling it for others, and how these behaviors could save their life or the life of a friend.

Safe Driving Talking Points for Your Virginia Teen

Here are some talking points from NHTSA that you can discuss with teens, model behaviorally, and use on social media to model and promote safe driving practices to them and their friends:

  • I wear my seat belt and make sure all my friends do, too.
  • I always follow the speed limit—you should, too.
  • I leave my phone out of sight so I’m not distracted.
  • I don’t pack my car full of friends, which can be a distraction.
  • Drinking and driving do not mix—stay completely sober behind the wheel.
  • I don’t do any kind of drugs before driving—neither should you.

Safe Driving Is a Year-Round Event

Though some schools and social media accounts focus heavily on teen driving safety around popular events such as football games, homecoming, prom, and graduation, the focus on safe driving should happen all year, every time a teen gets behind the wheel. Campaigns like Teen Driver Safety Week can be a reminder to keep safety as a focus every single time they drive, all year long.

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