Teaching Pre-Drivers Safe Passenger Behaviors

June 23, 2011

To many children, summer means one thing–vacation!  However, for families with a teen driver, it may also mean younger children will spend more time riding in a car with a teen driver.  Starting at ages 12-14, a child passenger’s risk of dying in a crash involving a teen driver doubles, and the risk continues to rise for each teen year.  So, how do we start lowering that rate?  And, worry less when a teen driver is behind the wheel with young passengers?  Safe Kids USA hopes that teaching 13 and 14 year olds, or pre-drivers, about being safe passengers will translate into better driving skills.

Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teens are eligible to drive.  The crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16-year-olds as it is for 18- to 19-year olds.  However, there is plenty of research to show that teens with involved parents who set rules and monitor their teens’ driving behavior in a supportive way can lower their teens’ crash risk by half.

Countdown2Drive targets pre-drivers and their parents.  A key component of the program is a web-based parent-teen passenger agreement.  Both parents and teens sign up to negotiate rules, rewards, and consequences for safe passenger behavior.  Use of a negotiated agreement between the pre-driver and their parent can clearly expose all the issues important to both parent and teen.  Teens with involved parents are twice as likely to wear seat belts, are half as likely to speed, and are 30% less likely to use a cell phone while driving (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 2009).

Countdown2Drive highlights five safety non-negotiables for the adult and pre-driver to discuss:

  • Always wear a seat belt (even in the back seat)
  • Never distract the driver (keep the volume down, stay off cell phones)
  • Never ride with a driver who has been drinking, taking drugs, or drowsy
  • Never ride with drivers who have too little experience
  • Avoid drivers they know are unsafe

Parents and pre-drivers can get started by going to the website, www.Countdown2Drive.org and creating their driving agreements. Then, begin the conversation using the agreement.  And, hang your driving agreement in a place you can see and refer to often.

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