Child Safety: Driving Education May Prevent Accidents among Teenagers
Welcome to this month’s For Your Child newsletter. Our topic: Teen driving education to prevent injuries. Experts say that safe driving education should be part of routine physicals for teens. Pediatricians are advised to ask teenagers during regular physical exams if they are driving. In 2001 alone 3,600 teens died in car accidents, and 337,000 were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Pediatrician Dr. Leticia Saraza says that car accidents kill more 15 – 20-year-olds than any single disease. She believes teenage driving should be considered a risky behavior, and needs as much attention as unprotected sex or underage drinking. Dr. Saraza notes that one conversation that’s not happening often enough is about the number one killer of teenagers: car accidents.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises pediatricians to ask 15-year-olds if they’re applying for a driver’s permit; discuss driving risks and ask probing questions about driving behavior; ask specific questions about medication use, alcohol use, nighttime driving, seatbelt use, and cell phone use while driving; encourage parents to place driving restrictions on their teenagers, like making sure that novice drivers are accompanied by an adult; ask parents to consider a written contract with their children, noting rules and penalties for failure to follow them; remind teens and parents that many state laws restrict cell phone use and nighttime driving for young drivers.
Dr. Saraza also urges pediatricians to learn about their state’s driving laws and discuss them with both teens and parents. Maryland’s approach divides licenses into three stages: learner’s permit, provisional license, and driver’s license. This allows the inexperienced driver to gain driving experience gradually. Research shows that graduated licensing reduces both the number of accidents and the number of severe injuries. One study shows that graduated licensing among 16-year-olds led to 35 percent few crashes requiring hospitalization. Other studies have shown that the crash rate among 16-year-olds dropped from 26 percent to 41 percent in the first year after the adoption of a graduated licensing law.
High risk behaviors among teen drivers include: lack of experience; not using seatbelts; using alcohol or other drugs; having a condition such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD; use of cell phones and audio equipment that distract drivers; nighttime driving; thinking, it can’t happen to me, which is typical for teenagers and young people.
For more information, always consult your child’s doctor. Thank you for listening. Please visit our website for more information on health and wellness topics.