Teen Safe Driving – Resources for Pediatricians

Teen Safe Driving
August 31, 2016
Teen Safe Driving – Resources for Parents
September 7, 2016

Motor Vehicle Collisions are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States and California. While deaths to teens have decreased over the last 20 years, any teen death is a tragedy. Most of these teen deaths are preventable. Pediatricians are in a key position to counsel teenagers and their parents on safe driving. Here is some information that may be helpful.

  • Their young age and inexperience behind the wheel
  • Risk taking while driving, especially for boys
  • Driving with other teens in the car
  • Night time driving (9 PM-5AM), but especially between the hours of 9 PM and Midnight
  • Distracted driving: use of cell phones, texting, eating/drinking or playing with the radio
  • Not wearing a seatbelt. Nearly ½ of teen deaths could be prevented if they wore seatbelts
  • Impaired driving: alcohol, elicit drugs and certain OTC and prescription medications
  • A diagnosis of ADHD, especially if not appropriately medicated
  • Driving with one other teen increases the fatal crash risk by 40%, driving with 2 other teens doubles the crash risk and driving with 3 other teens in the car quadruples the crash risk.

All states now have a 3-tiered graduated licensure system for teenagers. A learner’s permit stage, a provisional stage and full licensure. The following is a summary of California’s Provisional Driver’s License

  • After certain requirements are met, a teen over the age of 15-1/2 years may obtain a Learner’s Permit allowing them to drive with supervision from a licensed driver over the age of 25. They must hold this permit for 6 months before they may apply for a provisional license.
  • They need 50 hours of supervised driving experience after they obtain their permit, 10 hours must be at night, before they can apply to receive a Provisional License. This supervision must be from a licensed driver over the age of 25.
  • The Provisional Stage lasts for a year after licensure or 18 years of age, whichever comes first.
  • A Provisional License holder may not drive between the hours of 11 PM and 5 AM unless accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of 25.
  • A Provisional License holder may not drive with any other teen in the car unless accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of 25.
  • Cell phone use (even hands free) is not permitted for any driver under the age of 18 except in the case of an emergency.
  • Zero tolerance law: A Teen driving with alcohol in the car(unless with a parent or legal guardian) or anyone driving under the age of 21 years with any amount of alcohol in their system, lose their license for a year.
  • Documented safe driving record before a full license is obtained. 3 at fault collisions or point convictions will result in license suspension for 6 months.
  • Ask teens about high risk behaviors: cell phone use while driving, risky driving, alcohol and drug use.
  • Talk to teenagers about safe driving and make sure they understand the laws.
  • Counsel parents about teen driving. It is especially important that parents be reminded that they are role models for their teenagers. If they practice safe driving habits, their teens are more likely to be safe drivers.
  • Encourage parents to use Parent-Teen Driving Agreements. These outline responsibilities of both the parent and the teenager when driving. It also provides a platform for parents to discuss specific rules with their teams in a calm non-judgmental manner.
  • Carefully evaluate teenagers with ADHD. They are at higher risk for collisions likely due to inattentiveness and distractibility. If they are on psycho-stimulant medication, make sure they understand the importance of taking it as this improves their driving performance.