Most teenagers view their driver’s license as a step towards independence and freedom. However, you may not be sure if your teen is ready for the road. One thing is certain, teens are not ready to have the same level of driving responsibility as adults. Teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their lack of skills and lack of experience. Teen drivers are also at a higher risk for speeding, making a mistake and getting distracted, especially if there’s friends in the vehicle. In 2021, more than 68,000 crashes in Tennessee involved a teen driver.
What can parents do?
1. Learn about Tennessee’s Graduated Drivers License Program. Tennessee’s GDL Program is a multi-tiered program designed to ease young drivers into full driving privileges as they become more mature and develop their driving skills. By requiring more supervised practice, the State of Tennessee hopes to save lives and prevent tragic injuries. It places certain restrictions on teens under the age of 18 who have learner permits and driver licenses. The program requires parent/legal guardian involvement and emphasizes the importance of a good driving record.
2. Parents of New Teen Drivers should visit the Checkpoints Tennessee website. The Tennessee Checkpoints program is designed to provide parents and teens a way to manage new teen driver risks. The early months of independent (without parents) driving is very dangerous for teens. The Checkpoints agreement allows teens and parents to work together to establish driving privileges that manage crash risk.
3. Be a good role model. Remember that your child looks to you as a driver, so practice safe driving yourself. Set aside time to take your teen on practice driving sessions. It can be a great way to spend time together and to allow your teen to improve some basic driving skills. Your teen's learning starts at home.
4. Discuss the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Remind them that it’s illegal and deadly to drink and drive. If a teen is under 21, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) should always be at .00, not just under .08, which is the legal limit for drivers over age 21.
What can teen drivers do?
1. Avoid distracted driving. Drivers, no matter the age, but especially teen drivers can be distracted by texting, talking on the phone, and having too many passengers in the car. According to research, dialing a phone while driving increases a teen's risk of crashing by six times. Texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times.
2. Do not use alcohol or other drugs. Teens are more likely than anyone else to be killed in an alcohol-related crash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, 24% of drivers aged 15–20 who were killed in fatal motor vehicle crashes had been drinking.
3. Do not speed. Speeding is a critical safety issue for teen drivers. In 2021, it was a factor in 32% of the passenger vehicle teen drivers (15-18 years old) involved in fatal crashes. A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that from 2000-2011, teens were involved in 19,447 speeding-related crashes.
4. Buckle up. Tragically, seat belt use is the lowest among teen drivers. In fact, most teenagers involved in fatal crashes are unbuckled. In 2021, 51% of teen drivers who died were unbuckled. Even more troubling, when the teen driver involved in the fatal crash was unbuckled, nine out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled.
5. Limit teen passengers. Teen drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer, compared to when driving alone. Also teens who drive with multiple passengers are even more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors.
Get involved! Reduce TN Crashes began in 2013 with a simple idea-increasing traffic safety activities reduces traffic crashes. Reduce TN Crashes raises awareness of the need for safe driving programs, provides the tools to find crash reduction activities, and awards points to schools for completing and submitting pictures of their experiences.