December 20, 2012

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt urges parents to talk to teens about safe driving this holiday season


Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury and death among teenagers every year, and crash deaths are even higher during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

It is very important that teen drivers avoid distraction in any form to keep themselves and others safe.

Purnima Unni, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Coordinator at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, is urging parents to use this holiday season as an opportunity to pass along some safe-driving tips to their teens.

“It is against the law in Tennessee for a driver 18 years and younger to be on a cell phone,” Unni said. “Not many parents or teens are aware of this. It’s illegal for anyone, adults or teens, to type or read a text message while driving.”

  • No texting and driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,092 people were killed in 2010 due to crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. Recent studies show that cellular phone use may increase crash rates fourfold; using hands-free models are not associated with significantly less risk. Talk to your teen about turning off the phone while driving. If they need to make an emergency call, encourage them to pull over, turn off their engine and make the call.
  • Limit passengers. The risk of fatal teen crashes increases with every additional passenger. With three or more passengers, the fatal crash risk is about four times higher than when a beginner drives alone. Studies also show that teens with passengers are more likely to take risks and be distracted.
  • Slow down. Speed kills. Teens tend to have the need for speed due to their impulsive nature .Thirty-seven percent of male drivers between the ages of 15-20 were speeding right before their fatal crash.
  • Wear seat belts. Seat belts save lives. Everyone in the car needs to buckle up.
  • Enforce the rules with a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. Discuss the rules of the road with your teen. Talk about why they are important to follow, as well as consequences for breaking the rules. Work with your teen to draft and sign a parent-teen driving agreement. Take the keys away if necessary.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Talk to your teen about drinking and driving. Nearly 1 million high school teens drank alcohol and got behind the wheel in 2011. Drinking any alcohol greatly increases the risk for teen crashes. Laws in every state make it illegal for those under 21 to drive after drinking any alcohol.

Click here to learn more about the hospital teen motor vehicle safety program.