Five Myths about Teen Driving Safety

Communities, schools and public and private organizations are spreading the word about the importance of helping teenagers become smart, careful drivers. By now, most teens and their parents are aware of this frightening statistic: car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, who are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than older drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thankfully, the majority of teens today know that they need to wear seat belts and should never drink and drive.

But beyond these facts, there is often confusion about the best steps to keep teen drivers safe. Let’s clear up some of this confusion among teens and their parents about teen driving safety.

Myth #1: Most crashes occur when teenagers take deliberate risks.

The overwhelming majority of teen crashes are caused by inexperience or distractions, not thrill-seeking behaviors. It takes time to overcome inexperience, but distractions can be eliminated immediately. It may be tempting to multitask, but teens should focus all of their attention on the road—not applying makeup, scarfing down lunch or—the worst—fooling around with cell phones. More than 40 percent of teen crashes involve driver errors caused by distractions or a lack of scanning needed to detect and respond to hazards, according to the New York Times.

Myth #2: Texting while driving is no big deal. After all, it only takes a few seconds.

Taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds at 55 mph is like driving the length of a football field completely blind. When teens text and drive, their reaction times are greatly reduced. An Allstate study found that texting and driving increases the risk of crashing by 23 times!

Myth #3: Teens have young, strong eyes so night driving isn’t a problem.

100 percent wrong. Nighttime is the worst time for everyone because drivers are less alert and darkness limits the field of vision, making it hard to see oncoming traffic and how the road curves or slopes. Inexperienced teen drivers are three times more likely to crash at night than during the daylight hours, reports Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

Myth #4: Teens who are above average students will be safe drivers.

Being responsible for schoolwork doesn’t always carry over when a teen gets behind the wheel. Driving also requires cognitive and motor skills that aren’t necessary for classroom success. Studies have shown no relationship between a teen’s report card and driving behavior.

Myth #5: Parents have little influence over their teens’ driving habits.

The opposite is true: parents have the greatest influence over their teens’ driving habits, behaviors and skills. One of the best ways they can help their children become better drivers is to practice what they preach—buckle up, slow down and focus on the road.

Sandy Spavone is the Executive Director of NOYSand works to promote youth empowerment and leadership. She builds partnerships that help to save lives, prevent injuries, and promote safe and healthy lifestyles among all youth.