Why Must Teen Drivers and Passengers Always Buckle Up?

Teen Drivers

Studies show that car accidents are a leading cause of death among teen drivers. Accidents are also a major contributor to traumatic injury among teens, with spinal fractures being among the most common.

Medical researchers analyzed data on more than 34,000 U.S. teens under age 18 who suffered spinal fractures between 2009 and 2014. Teens aged 15 to 17 had nearly 63 percent of those fractures, two-thirds of which were caused by car accidents. Spinal fractures can cause short- and long-term disabilities and problems with thinking, walking, moving, and breathing.

These statistics are both sobering and revealing because the researchers found a link between seat belt use and spinal fractures. Simply put, teens and their passengers who did not wear seat belts suffered the most spinal fractures. Unfortunately, the findings also showed that nearly three percent of these teens died of their spinal injuries.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that in 2019 alone, nearly 2,400 U.S. teens aged 13 to 19 were killed and 258,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

These injuries and deaths could have been prevented in most cases if the teen drivers and passengers had done a straightforward act: buckled up while driving.

How can I Ensure My Teen’s Safety in the Car?

Although all teens are at risk for a car accident, those aged 16 to 19 are the most vulnerable. They are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash.

Other risk factors include being male, teens driving with teen passengers, and newly licensed teens.

Following are some ways parents and educators can help teens be safe while driving:

  • Require seat belt use. National studies show the risk of severe injury and death was twice as high when children and teens did not wear seat belts than when they did. It should be stressed to the teen that everyone in the vehicle must be buckled up at all times, with no exceptions.
  • Limit occupants. Do not allow the teen driver to have more than one teen passenger in the car at any time. The more teens in the car, the higher the chances for an accident.
  • Do not allow driving after dark. Nearly half of all accidents involving teens happen between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Therefore, limit the teen’s driving at night, especially on weekends.
  • Have a serious discussion about cell phone use while driving. An accident can happen in a split-second while a teen is glancing at a text or using their cell phone. A 2019 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that nearly 40 percent of U.S. high school students surveyed said they had texted or emailed at least once while driving during the previous 30 days. Offer consequences and rewards for keeping the cell phone off while driving.
  • Stress the dangers of speeding. Inexperienced teen drivers and high speed do not mix. Many parents of teen drivers under age 18 who do not own their cars install safety monitors in the vehicle. These monitors provide a variety of data, such as speed, harsh braking, safe arrivals, and other information.
  • Periodically review rules of the road. Take the time to discuss the teen’s driving and their knowledge of the basics: obeying road signs, not tailgating, always using turn signals, changing lanes carefully when there is a blind spot, and other safe practices. Reckless driving by teens leads to accidents. Also, review the vehicle’s interior with the young driver to ensure they know how to use signals, lights, and other devices.
  • Ban alcohol use entirely. It is illegal in New Jersey for anyone under age 21 to drink alcohol, but it is unlawful for anyone to use alcohol while driving. Consider making a pact with a teen driver that they will never drink and drive or get in the car with someone who is impaired from drugs or alcohol.
  • Take regular rides with the teen driver. Inexperienced teens cannot be expected to know how to handle every driving situation. Help them by riding along and offering instruction. Consider highway driving, driving in construction zones, bad weather driving, four-way stops, roundabouts, driving in traffic congestion, and other everyday situations. In addition, be a good driving role model when the teen is a passenger in the car.
  • Discuss the dangers of distracted driving. Both teen and adult drivers get in car accidents because of distraction. In addition to cell phones, other distractions include loud music, rowdy passengers, and eating and drinking.
  • Reward good behavior, punish bad behavior. For example, teens who are stopped by law enforcement or otherwise caught driving recklessly or involved in an accident should suffer consequences. Conversely, those who exhibit responsible driving behavior should enjoy periodic rewards.

What is a Teen-Parent Driving Agreement?

Many parents and their teen drivers sign a driving agreement. The agreement can include any positive driving behavior the teen should exhibit and those they should not. Although not legally binding, this agreement can help the teen understand their responsibilities behind the wheel and the consequences for driving irresponsibly.

The CDC has a sample agreement that includes the following topics:

  • Obeying rules of the road, signs, and signals
  • Seat belt use
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Impaired driving
  • Cell phone use
  • Driving with permission only
  • Driving only during certain hours
  • Limiting passengers
  • Consequences for breaking the rules

The agreement can also include whether the teen must help pay for gas, insurance, and other costs.

Highland Park Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Advocate for Victims of Reckless Drivers

Accidents caused by a reckless teen or other negligent drivers should not mean financial devastation for the innocent motorist. Medical bills, loss of wages, property damage, and pain and suffering can take their toll. The Highland Park car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr fight every day for compensation for accident victims. We can help you and your loved ones, too. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or 732-249-4600 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.