We're approaching the deadliest driving season of the year - summer. But even before that, we have to get through prom season, which has become a major concern for both traffic safety officials and parents.
There are more traffic fatalities each month during the summer than at any other time of year and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16- to 20-year-olds. And, according to a recent survey, parents are more concerned about their sons and daughters being injured in a motor vehicle than they are about sexual activity, alcohol consumption or drug use.
A Harris Interactive Survey commissioned by DaimlerChrysler involving 5,600 parents was conducted in March across the United States. It found that nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of parents indicated a driving-related concern as their top worry for their teens on prom night, including drinking and driving (32 per cent), car crashes (23 per cent) and reckless driving (8 per cent).
"Overall, teen driving safety continues to be a top concern for parents of teenagers. Compared to other health or safety risks, such as pregnancy, suicide, drug or alcohol abuse, nearly half (43 per cent) of parents of teens ages 15-18 point to driving safety issues as their primary worry - referencing driving safely and motor vehicle crashes," the survey reports.
Teen driving safety is a major worry year-round, but is heightened by a number of factors on prom and graduation night.
Many of the factors that contribute to the high crash, injury and fatality rates for young drivers converge on this occasion - chief among them inexperience and distraction.
As a parent, there are a number of things you can do to prevent any tragedy; chief among them is locating or providing alternative transportation.
Take your teen out of the driver's seat; provide a limo or other means to get to and from the event. Of course, the young person does not want mom or dad to drive them to the prom or pick them up - so find an alternative method.
Contact a local antique or special interest car club to see if members would play chauffeur, for a fee. How cool would it be to step out of the back seat of a special old car - and how about the memory of picking up your date in one?
If you can't avoid your teen driving, put in place a set of non-debatable standards - the primary one being belts for all at all times and no more than two (preferably) or four people in the vehicle.
Research provided by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that one of the biggest reasons for high teen driver and passenger fatalities is low safety belt use among teens. More than 60 per cent of occupants killed in vehicles driven by teens were not wearing safety belts.
The other major factor is distraction, which becomes to the fore on this special night. The biggest problem in this respect is the number of people in the vehicle. A 16- or 17-year-old driving with one passenger is 50 per cent more likely to be involved in a crash than when driving alone. With two passengers, that incidence more than doubles and with three or more the risk is four times greater.
Add to this cellphone use, loud music and all the usual things regarding speed, alcohol consumption and proper safe driving practices.
Write the rules down in the form of a contract and have your teen sign it. This may seem hokey, but it might just help instill the rules.
Remember that 50 per cent of the fatalities that occur with a teen at the wheel happen after dark even though the vast majority of teen driving takes place during the day.
Make prom or graduation night a happy memory.