|As the parent of a teenage driver, I know how exciting it is for a child to get her license. I also have felt a parent's anxiety during this transformational time. As we know, music, phone calls, texting, eating - to name a few - are all significant temptations while driving. But as much of a concern as all of those distractions are, it turns out that possibly the most dangerous may simply be having other friends in the car.|
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of dealth for teens. And a May 2012 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that the risk for 16- and 17-year old drivers increases with each passenger. Compared to driving with no passengers, the risk of death increases 44 percent with one under-21 year old passenger. Two young passengers double the risk. And three or more teenage passengers quadruple the risk of a fatal accident.
The reason is fairly obvious. Passengers can be a serious distraction for young drivers. Several months ago, I wrote about the dangers of distracted driving - with special emphasis on texting and cell phone use. While electronics pose a real threat, these statistics remind us that the chance of a young driver being involved in a fatal crash increases with each young passenger. Perhaps not surprisingly, when a teenage driver carries at least one passenger aged 35 or older, the risk of death is reduced by 62 percent.
To protect young lives, Massachusetts is among 25 states with graduated driver licensing laws that impose educational requirements, behind-the-wheel training, and limits on passengers during the first six months that a teen between 16.5 and 18 years of age has a license. You can find more information on Massachusetts' Junior Operator License requirements at http://www.mass.gov/rmv/jol/.
If you are a parent or guardian of a teen, I encourage you to review these regulations with your new or future driver. It's also a good idea to go for rides with your teen. As an older passenger, you will not only reduce his or her risk, but also create a natural setting for a conversation about safety. If you observe a dangerous situation involving another teen driver, you can point it out - and share a couple of statistics about the risk. When your teen's phone rings, you'll also have a chance to talk about the importance of avoiding texting, cell phone use, adjusting the radio, setting a GPS unit, or eating, drinking or other distractions while driving.
At Mid-State Insurance Agency, we're in the business of providing our clients with the insurance protection they need. We are also committed to reducing risk and promoting safety. We hope these ideas help, and we invite you to share with us your strategies to increase the safety of the young drivers in your family.