It’s that time of the year again–time for teens to gather their books, pack their backpacks, and head back to school. For most families, school may have started a few weeks ago, but has your carpool schedule been smoothed out?
Many teens are driving themselves to school for the first time this year. This means parents should get to sleep in a little longer in the mornings, but it also means they get to worry about whether or not their teens made it to school safely. Ease your mind by talking to your teens about driving safety before the school year begins.
Here are the back-to-school driving safety tips that every teen driver should follow:
Check Local Carpooling Laws
Teens may want to drive to school together so they can save money on gas and spend time with their friends before the school bell rings. But, it’s important for teens to check their local carpooling laws before making plans. Each state has its own laws governing the number of passengers that are allowed in a vehicle with a teen driver. For example, a 16-year-old driver in Alaska cannot have anyone who is under the age of 21 in their car. In Kansas, teen drivers are allowed to have no more than one passenger under the age of 18 in their vehicle. Teens should familiarize themselves with these laws so they can avoid penalties for violating them.
Parents should also consider setting their own carpooling laws. Studies have shown that having passengers in the vehicle can increase a teen driver’s risk of getting into an accident. The more passengers that are in the vehicle, the greater the risk becomes. Having one passenger in the vehicle increases the risk by about 48%, whereas having three passengers can increase the risk by as much as 302%. For this reason, parents may want to limit the number of passengers that are allowed in their teen’s vehicle even if the law allows them to carpool.
Distractions can take the driver’s attention off of the road so they are at a greater risk of getting into an accident. Drivers can get distracted at any time while they are behind the wheel, but studies show that some environments tend to have more distracted drivers than others. Surprisingly, school zones are one of the environments with the highest concentration of distracted drivers.
A recent study revealed that one in six drivers traveling through a school zone is distracted. Female drivers were more likely to be distracted by cell phones and grooming activities, whereas male drivers were more likely to be distracted by eating or reaching for something in their car.
School zones are busy areas packed with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles. If teens take their eyes off of the road for even a second, a tragedy could occur. Because of this, it’s important for parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of distracted driving. Parents should also consider using an app such as AT&T DriveMode or TeenSafe to keep track of their teens and make sure they are not using their cell phones while behind the wheel.
Remind your teens about the importance of buckling up before they hit the road. Seatbelts save nearly 15,000 lives every year, and they prevent countless other injuries. Plus, a study on distracted driving in school zones revealed that drivers that were wearing their seatbelts were far less likely to become distracted than drivers that were not buckled up. Make sure your teens aren’t forgetting about their safety by reminding them to buckle up as they head out the door every morning.
Get Plenty of Rest
Every conversation about teen driving safety should also include a reminder about the importance of getting plenty of rest. Why? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is responsible for approximately 72,000 accidents and 44,000 injuries every year. This means that teens that are not getting enough sleep are at a greater risk of getting into an accident.
Teens need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. But, it can take a few weeks for teens to leave their summer sleep schedule behind and get back in the habit of going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier. While their bodies adjust to this change, they may feel drowsier than usual. If your teen is yawning frequently or struggling to keep his eyes open in the morning, it’s best to offer him a ride to school instead of letting him drive himself.
Driving to school is a major milestone in every teen’s life, but it’s important that they are prepared for the challenges they’ll face on the road. Make sure your safely celebrates this milestone all year long by following these back-to-school driving safety tips!