Parents Matter When It Comes to Teen Driving

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, killing more than 5,000 each year. More than 7,000 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving teen drivers in 2007, government data show. More than 3,000 of these deaths were teen drivers, and more than 250,000 teen drivers were injured. Two articles in the October 2009 edition of Pediatrics magazine offer advice to parents to help reduce teen driving accidents.

First, do not give your teen his or own car. Second, be involved and authoritative; give clear driving safety rules and offer support. The studies show that it’s not just how well you may teach your child to drive; a proper attitude must be instilled. Primary access to novice teen drivers to vehicles is highly prevalent in the United States. This practice is a dangerous norm because primary access is associated with risky driving behaviors.

Among these drivers, 25 percent had been involved in crashes, versus just 10 percent of teens who shared driving access. Compared with drivers with shared access, drivers with primary access reported higher likelihoods of using cellular telephones while driving and speeding at least 10 mph above the posted limit. It has been suggested that the lower crash rate doesn’t reflect less driving time, but is likely due to having to ask for the car keys, which helps parents monitor their kids’ driving. Healthcare providers and schools should consider counseling parents to discourage giving novice teen drivers primary access to vehicles.

In the study about parental involvement, one-half of parents were described as authoritative, 23% as permissive, 8% as authoritarian, and 19% as uninvolved. Compared with teens with uninvolved parents, those with authoritative parents reported one-half the crash risk in the past year, were 71% less likely to drive when intoxicated, and were less likely to use a cellular telephone while driving. Teens with authoritative or authoritarian parents reported using seat belts nearly twice as often and speeding one-half as often as teens with uninvolved parents. No significant differences in crash risk or seat belt use were found between permissive and uninvolved parents.

One of the most effective ways to provide parental guidance is a formal, written, driving-related, parent-teen agreement with clear parental expectations. Such an agreement reduces risky driving among teens, likely by reducing discordance between parent and teen interpretations of expectations and limits. The study about primary access to vehicles is Primary Access to Vehicles Increases Risky Teen Driving Behaviors and Crashes: National Perspective, by J. Felipe Garca-Espaa, Ph.D., Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSED, Dennis R. Durbin, MD, MSCE, Michael R. Elliott, PhD and Flaura K. Winston, MD, Ph.D. The study about parental attitudes is Associations Between Parenting Styles and Teen Driving, Safety-Related Behaviors and Attitudes, by Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, Dennis R. Durbin, MD, MSCE, J. Felipe Garca-Espaa, Ph.D., Ewa A. Kalicka, BS and Flaura K. Winston, MD, Ph.D.

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