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Learning how to drive safely in a variety of traffic situations requires a lot of instruction, practice, and exposure. The first years of driving are often the most dangerous. Crash rates are at the most high within the first months of driving.

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(Source: Measuring Changes in Teenage Driver Crash Characteristics During the Early Months of Driving)
Caption: Young driver crashes by months licensed in North Carolina, Nova Scotia, and Victoria.

In 2015, 81 teens (ages 15-19) were killed on North Carolina roads (NCDOT).
In 2014, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death in the United States for every age 16 through 24 (NHTSA).
Half of all teens will be in a car crash before graduating high school (National Safety Council).
One-third of fatal teen crashes occur at night, and over half of those crashes happen between 9pm and midnight (CDC).
In 2013, North Carolina had the 5th highest number of fatalities in crashes involving young drivers (NHTSA).
In 2015, over 57% of teen road fatalities in North Carolina involved speeding (NCDOT).
In 2015, over 82% of teen fatalities involved a car leaving the designated lane (NCDOT).

Per mile driven, drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers aged 20 or older (IIHS).

For parents

How to keep your young driver safe on the road

Discuss and sign a Parent-teen Driving Agreement with your young driver.

Enforce the 5 to Drive

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Discuss these rules (developed by NHTSA) with your young driver before handing over the keys.

Lead by example by following these rules as well.

 

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No Drinking and Driving.

Remind your teen that drinking before the age of 21 is illegal, and alcohol and driving should never mix no matter your age.

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Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Seat.

If you wear your seat belt every time you’re in the car, your teen is more likely to follow suit. Remind your teen that it’s important to buckle up on every trip, no matter how far or how fast.

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No phones.
  • Distractions lead to crashes. One study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that half of teen drivers on cell phones did not brake or steer before crashing (AAA).
  • Remind your young driver about the dangers of using the phone while driving—whether it’s texting, calling, navigating, or changing music.
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No speeding.

Drive the speed limit and require your young driver to do the same. Every time speed doubles, stopping distance quadruples.

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No More Than One Passenger at Any Time.

With each passenger in the vehicle, your teen’s risk of a fatal crash goes up. Don’t allow your new driver to ride with more than one passenger unless you are also present in the vehicle.

 

Enforce the GDL restrictions and guidelines for supervised driving with your new driver.

When you are supervising your new driver, make sure that they have plenty of practice in different areas and road conditions (including stormy weather, night time driving, etc.).

 

Higher-Order Thinking

Higher-order thinking can help teach your new driver to think critically about potential risks and how to avoid dangerous situations. Anytime you are in a vehicle with your young driver, ask high-order thinking questions…

 

What is different about driving conditions during a sunrise or sunset?

Discussion: Drivers who are traveling toward the sun may have a harder time seeing things the road. During this time of day, never assume that a car can see you.

How can you tell if someone is driving distracted?

Discussion: Swerving back and forth in lane. Traveling for distances while straddling two lanes. Running off of the road.

If you suspect someone is driving distracted, what should you do?

Discussion: Stay away from the swerving vehicle as much as possible, while still maintaining a safe speed.

Why should you leave space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you?

Discussion: The distance between you and the next vehicle is how much space you will have to stop in time. If you follow too closely, you risk hitting another vehicle.

How do you spot an aggressive driver?

Discussion: An aggressive driver may be speeding and tailgating other vehicles. Anticipate that he or she may try to cut in front of you in a relatively small space. Don’t try to “block” aggressive drivers, instead, give them more space and try to be patient.

For young drivers

Learning how to drive? Awesome. Unfortunately, the first few years of driving are often the most dangerous. It’s important to be aware of the risks you now face behind the wheel. But don’t be discouraged. You have the power and ability to keep yourself and your friends safe by following these guidelines.

Before driving – make sure you follow the “5 to Drive”:

 

Drink Icon
No Drinking and Driving.
  • A conviction of drinking and driving underage in North Carolina costs approximately $2,000 (including fines, court costs, and attorney’s fees).
Seatbelt Icon
Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Seat.
  • Without a seatbelt, a person is 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle. 3 out of 4 people who are ejected from a vehicle during a crash are killed (NHTSA).
No Phones Icon
No phones.
  • Distractions lead to crashes. One study found that half of teen drivers on cell phones did not brake or steer before crashing (AAA).
  • Put your phone in the glove box to eliminate the temptation.
speeding-was-a-factor-for-29-percent-of-teen-drivers-in-fatal-crashes
No speeding.
  • When your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples –meaning that it takes three times longer to stop.
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No More Than One Passenger at Any Time.
  • With each passenger, your risk of being in a fatal crash goes up.

 

Is someone driving dangerously?

Speak up. Passengers accounted for nearly 1/3 of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2013 (IIHS). It is your right as a passenger to speak up if you feel unsafe.

In any vehicle that you occupy, you have the power to prevent a crash. Empowered Passenger.

 

Be direct.

“You’re making me nervous. Can you slow down?”

Be helpful.

“Here, let me text for you.”

Bring up law enforcement.

“I’ve seen a lot of cops pulling people over today— you may want to slow down.”

Make it personal.

“A friend of mine got in a bad wreck and I really don’t want to go through what she did. Can you please pay attention to the road?”

Call attention to bad drivers.

“I can’t believe that person is tailing that other car! That’s a wreck waiting to happen.”

Use facts. Try These:
  • In a car traveling 30 mph, a person not buckled up can weigh as much as a midsize car when thrown in a crash. That impact can kill another passenger.
  • Even with their eyes on the road, a person talking on the phone while driving can be cognitively “blind” to up to 50% of their physical surroundings.

(Some ideas taken from “5 ways to get drivers to stop texting” The Nemours Foundation)

Resources

Learn more about the Vision Zero Initiative

Vision Zero Partners     FAQ