It is easy to get lost in the holiday hustle – to hurry from one festivity to the next and to not take the usual precautions on the road. The season puts us under a spell, and without realizing it, we may drink one too many cocktails before getting behind the wheel, or glance down at our phones a second too long while driving. An impaired driver is always dangerous, but during Christmas and New Year’s, the average number of fatalities skyrocket.
On Christmas, there was an average of 45 fatalities per day involving an impaired driver, and on New Year’s, the number rose to 54 fatalities per day. While this is a concern for everyone on the road, parents worry most about their teenage drivers – who are already most vulnerable to motor vehicle crashes due to their inexperience and distracted driving tendencies.
Parents may not be able to control the behaviors of other drivers on the road, but they can help their teenage kids practice increased safety and awareness while driving, especially during the holidays.
Three Teen Driver Tips for the 2020 Holiday Season:
Limit distracted driving
- Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. In 2018, distracted driving resulted in 2,841 deaths. Distracted driving takes many forms – it can be anything that takes your attention away from the main task at hand. The most common type of distracted driving is cell phone use.
Get familiar with the cell phone driving laws by state. Most states have specific cell phone use laws and penalties in place for novice drivers. For example, 38 states ban cell phone use for all novice drivers. Oklahoma has a handheld ban for all learner or intermediate licenses, and Arkansas has a handheld ban for ages 18 to 20 years old.
Fines and penalties also vary by state and age. Missouri has a $200 fine for the first violation of texting and driving that only applies to drivers 21 and under.
Drive when the odds are in your favor
- As teenage and novice drivers, we may not be able to control our environment or the weather conditions, but most of the time, we can choose when we sit behind the steering wheel.
Avoid driving in less than ideal conditions. If it is difficult to see, or if you are sleep deprived, or consumed in anger, wait it out. Don’t let your teenager drive at late hours of the night, or during high traffic times. Try to avoid highways that you know are the most crowded.
Drive when there is daylight outside. Also, when there are less distractions. Drive when you are awake, alert and your vision or judgment is not impaired in any way.
Be prepared for the worst case scenarios
- A lot of anxiety parents and teenage drivers feel comes from uncertainty. While we will never predict the future, we can prepare for it to the best of our ability.
- Make sure your teenager maps out where she or he is going before stepping in the car.
- Make sure your teenager is prepared for worst case scenarios, such as bad weather conditions (snow, rain) or who to contact for roadside assistance if the car breaks down.
- Be sure your teenager has an emergency kit ready to go.
- Make sure your teenager keeps a cell phone charger in the car.
We hope these tips help keep your teenage drivers safe and sound during the holidays. While also, easing some of your anxiety as parents. While we cannot control other drivers on the road or weather conditions. We can do our best to teach our teenage kids safe driving practices, and hope they follow them.
The best safety advice: to eliminate distracted driving and to be fully present when we are behind the wheel. Until we reach our destination, everything else can wait – cell phones, friends, and even the chatter in our heads. The holidays are all about coming together. And, by staying safe on the road, we get to spend more time with the people who love us.