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How to Reduce Risky Driving Behavior in Teens

How to Reduce Risky Driving Behavior in Teens

Parents—set a good example for your teens and talk to them about safe driving.

In the 1950 driver’s education film, Last Date, actor Dick York plays Nick, a bad boy who drives recklessly. A peer warns Nick he’s destined to commit “teenicide,” defined in the film as “the fine art of killing yourself, and maybe someone else, with an automobile before you reach the age of 20.” Predictably, a subsequent joyride ends with Nick dead and his date Jeanne disfigured for life.

Nearly 70 years later, teens are going on fewer formal dates, but vehicular accidents are still a leading cause of death, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2016, more than 4,000 US children and adolescents were killed in car crashes—almost 11 a day. And teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal crash.

That doesn’t mean teens shouldn’t drive, but they need the tools to do so safely.

Research shows that when parents and teens talk about rules for safe driving and come to a formal verbal or written agreement, it reduces risky driving behaviors. Other important steps:

  • Set a good example. Teens who have seen their parents drink and drive are three times more likely to follow in their footsteps.
  • Limit the number of passengers in the car while your teen (up to age 18) is driving. Your state may have Graduated Driver Licensing (go to www.ghsa.org to find out). But if not, make your own law: One other teen passenger, max. No driving after 9 pm.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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