Top Tips to Keep Teens Safe Behind the Wheel

(Salt Lake City, UT) – In recognition of National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 21-27, 2018), the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Safe Kids Utah urge families to discuss smart strategies for staying safe behind the wheel. Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for American teens and are most often the result of inexperienced teen drivers taking risks such as not buckling up, texting while driving, driving with teen passengers, speeding, driving under the influence, or driving drowsy.

Data from the Utah Highway Safety Office showed that in 2016, teenage drivers represented just nine percent of licensed drivers in Utah, yet they were involved in 21% of all motor vehicle crashes in the state. “That’s more than 13,000 motor vehicle crashes, resulting in 5,900 injuries and tragically, 45 deaths,” said Cambree Applegate, director of Safe Kids Utah at the UDOH.

Teenage drivers in Utah were 1.7 times more likely to be in a crash than drivers of other ages in 2016. “Most crashes involving a teenage driver are caused by inexperience on the road,” said Applegate. “Time and again we hear stories about teens whose inexperience, when combined with unnecessary risk-taking – like not wearing a seat belt – results in tragedy. Parents, talk to your teens about the necessity of buckling up and keeping the phone down on every ride, and make sure you are following the rules, too.”

Safe Kids Utah recommends the following top driving safety tips for teen drivers.

  1. Talk to your teens about how to be safe while driving. Remind teens to follow traffic signals and laws, make eye contact with pedestrians, and enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  2. Make a formal agreement with your teen and enforce it. A 2016 research report by Safe Kids Worldwide showed that formal parent-teen agreements regarding driving restrictions help reduce risky driving, traffic violations, and crashes.
  3. Let your actions speak as loud as your words. Kids are always watching, even when you think they’re not. Set a good example when kids and teens are in the car. If you buckle up, they are more likely to buckle up and if you speed, they will speed.
  4. Ensure your new teen driver gets at least 40 hours of experience under a variety of driving conditions. Having more experience behind the wheel helps new drivers manage driving in the dark and driving with other teen passengers in the car; situations that can increase the likelihood of crashes for young drivers.
  5. Take action against distraction. Teach teen drivers to put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until their final destination.
  6. Be alert around neighborhoods and schools. When driving, be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones and be on the lookout for bikers, walkers, or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly.
  7. Watch out for pedestrians. Give pedestrians the right of way and look both ways when making a turn to help spot any bikers, walkers, or runners who may not be immediately visible.

Safe Kids Utah works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Safe Kids Utah is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Utah was founded in 1998 and is led by the UDOH.

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Media Contact:
Cambree Applegate
Safe Kids Utah
(385) 256-8836