Lowering Risks for Teen Drivers in Utah

As an established rite of passage, driving privileges in Utah play a large role in the transformation of a youth into an adult. Along with the allure and opportunities that a driver’s license creates, a great amount of risk is carried by teenagers as they enter into the vehicular world. Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for youth in Utah from the ages of 15-19. Thus, it is important for teens, parents, and the public to stay informed about teen auto accidents.

5 Deadly Teen Behaviors

The following are the top 5 characteristics of teens involved in automobile accidents in Utah according to the Don’t Drive Stupid campaign. Don’t Drive Stupid defines their mission statement as:

Our goal is to make Utah’s roads safer and to keep teens like you alive. On this site, you can check out interesting facts, read about people that will never drive again, and most importantly learn how you can stay alive behind the wheel.

Aggressive Driving

In Utah, 2/3 of all accidents involve some type of aggressive driving. Aggressive driving takes place when drivers enter into an emotional state where they are incapable of making proper decisions. These emotional states could be caused by stress, haste, or an overall disregard for traffic laws. Aggressive driving leads motorists into illegal activity such as speeding, tailgating (following too closely), running stop lights, and failing to yield to traffic.

Aggressive driving can largely be avoided by planning ahead to avoid being late, obeying all traffic laws, and not driving while stressed.

Distracted Driving

Studies have confirmed that “multi-tasking” doesn’t exist as most people believe it does. Driving a car should be the one and only priority for those behind the wheel, especially for young, inexperienced drivers. For teens, distractions usually come in the form of cellphones and rowdy friends. USDOT has confirmed that a teen driver is 23 times more likely to crash if he or she texts while driving.

Impaired Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is the number one cause of fatal accidents for teen drivers nationwide. Be aware that Utah’s zero tolerance policy strictly prohibits teens from having even one drop of alcohol in their system while driving. If a teen is caught after just one drink, they can receive serious legal recourse. For a full account of the legal ramifications of driving under the influence, click here.

Drowsy Driving

Believe it or not, driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. UDOT reports that not receiving the recommended 8 hours of sleep for teens can increase their chances of driving drowsy by 33%. If you struggle keeping your eyelids open, start drifting between lanes, and/or are feeling at all restless, don’t hesitate to pull over.

There a few easy precautions and hints to consider to avoid drowsy driving. Eating a snack, taking a short nap (obviously in a safe, secure, parked position), getting out for a brisk walk, or switching drivers can lower risks and revive a driver from a potentially lethal situation.

Driving Without a Seat Belt

It doesn’t just make sense to buckle up—it’s the law. By ensuring a teen wears his or her seat belt, he/she is 50% more likely to survive a crash.  In 2010, nearly two-thirds (65%) of the teens killed in a motor vehicle crash were not wearing a seat belt properly.

Most Common Causes of Accidents for Ages 15–24
(source: Utah Safety Council)

  1. Following Too Closely (21%)
  2. Failed to Yield Right of Way (16%)
  3. Speeding (11%)
  4. Failed to Keep in Proper Lane (10%)
  5. Driver Distraction (9%)

What To Do as a Parent

These tips for getting involved with your teen’s driving were given by Utah’s Zero Fatalities program, as reported by KSL.com. 

  • Be an example of a safe driver yourself.
    • Give a proper demonstration of taking all precautions while driving, including: verbally noting when checking the mirrors, signalling, and changing lanes and speeds etc.
  • Establish a Parent/Teen driving contract.
    • This could include practice schedules, discussing safe driving, rules and important restrictions (a list of age restrictions can be found here).
    • Go through the above potential pitfalls for teen drivers and come up with ways to avoid them.
    • Even a rewards program could be implemented for accountability (i.e. I’ll put gas in your car once a month if you abide by all the rules and report back to me).
    • Follow through with the program (consequences for failing to follow all rules).
  • Role Play.
    • Have your teens practice potentially dangerous situations; i.e., a friend tries to convince them to drive before their age restriction allows them peer passengers.
  • Give verbal feedback on how they are doing. This includes compliments and pointers on what they can focus on in the future.

Parents’ Influence on Their Teen:

Parents’ involvement really does make an impact on the safety of their teen driver. In fact, Don’t Drive Stupid has documented that teens whose parents are involved in their driving are:

  • 2 x’s more likely to wear a seat belt
  • 70% less likely to drink and drive
  • 1/2 as likely to speed
  • 30% less likely to use their cellphone while driving

More about the effect of parental guidance on teen driving here.

The statistics clearly reveal how important it is to educate teens about safe driving. Early education and support from parents can go a long way in reducing the number of fatalities among the youth of Utah. Because 90% of all teen car accidents occur in the first few months after receiving a driver’s licence, it is important that the communication between parent and teenager takes place early and often.

Teens are much safer under the direction and support of their parents, especially when it comes to passengers. Fatal crashes increase by almost 50% when a 16- or 17-year-old driver has one teenage passenger; it doubles with two teen passengers and quadruples with three or more according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Christensen & Hymas hope that parents and teens take this time to work together to help reduce the number of fatalities among teen drivers. Teens need to understand that driving an automobile is a big responsibility that should never be taken lightly.

Original story by Stacy Johnson at KSL.com

Photo “Teen Driver” copy right to State Farm

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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