Because car crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for teens in Washington state, Governor Christine Gregoire has declared October 17-23, 2010 “Teen Driver Safety Week.” Since 2008, over 100 16-19 year-olds have died on our roads and three times that many were injured. Teen drivers are at fault in most of those crashes and which usually involve speeding, drug/alcohol impairment, inattention or a combination of these.
The good news is there are many things parents can do to decrease the likelihood of their teen being involved in a crash.
Four ways parents can help their teens be safe on the road:
1. Enforce the intermediate driver’s licensing law (IDL): It’s the law for a reason. IDL laws are effective and work by giving young drivers increasing privileges over time. This approach allows time for them to gain experience under safer conditions before they drive under more risky conditions. Read Washington’s law with your teen and discuss why it needs to be enforced. Provide real penalties for not following IDL guidelines: take the keys.
2. Set a good driving example for your teen. Studies show that parents are the single most important influence on their children’s driving.
3. Schedule lots of supervised practice driving. Teens need lots of supervised practice to become experienced and safe drivers.
- Schedule plenty of time. The required 50 hours is a minimum to learn a complicated skill like driving.
- Use everyday trips. Supervise driving to soccer practice and the grocery store to practice different skills. You’ll be surprised how quickly the hours add up if you always let your teen drive when you’re in the car together.
- Vary experiences. Teens need to learn skills on various road types under various weather conditions, as well as at nighttime.
- Keep a log. Record the number of hours you spend and the different skills you practiced.
4. Catch your teen doing it right. Teens are between being a dependent child and an independent adult. They need to hear positive reinforcement to help them become responsible adults.
• Praise them when they use good judgment and obey IDL.
• Be honest. Teens can tell when you are sincere.
• When needed, discipline and let them know the reasons why. (“You are late. You broke the law and put yourself at risk of being in a crash.”)
Special rules for teen drivers in Washington (Intermediate Driver License)
When teens get a driver license, they must follow some special rules and restrictions. These rules are in place to help protect teen drivers from crashes, help them develop and improve skills in the safest way, and make roads safer for all drivers.
If you are under 18, you will be issued an intermediate driver license and must follow these special rules:
- For the first 6 months, you cannot drive with passengers under the age of 20 unless they are members of your immediate family (such as a spouse, child, stepchild, or siblings, both by birth and marriage).
- For the next 6 months, you cannot carry more than 3 passengers who are under 20 years old who are not members of your immediate family.
For the first 12 months, you cannot drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless you are with a licensed driver age 25 or older. The only exception to this rule is if you drive for agricultural purposes, meaning you transport farm products or supplies under the direction of a farmer (See RCW 46.20.070). (click for more info)
You aren’t permitted to use wireless devices while driving, even with a hands-free device. This includes talking on cell phones and sending or receiving text messages. You may only use a wireless device to report an emergency.