To promote National Teen Driver Safety Week, we’re proud to be working alongside the Tennessee Teen Safe Driving Coalition and the Tennessee Highway Safety Office by helping educate teens and their families in our community about the importance of talking about safe driving practices.

Car crashes are still the number one cause of death in the United States for teens aged 15 to 19. Over the past decade, fewer people have been killed in car accidents overall, but in 2015, teen driver fatalities increased by 10%. This statistic reveals the urgency of this issue and shows that there’s still a lot of work to do in order to keep teens safe on our roads.

The problem is distracted driving, and other teen passengers are the main distraction

Research done by AAA found that distracted driving is to blame for this increase in teen driver fatalities, and other teenaged passengers are the number one distraction. Cell phones certainly contribute to distracted driving as well, but teens need to be reminded that a having fun cruising around town with friends can have very serious consequences. It’s extremely important for parents to talk to their children about adhering to laws regarding the number of passengers permitted in the car with teen drivers.

Teens also need to recognize their role as a passenger is to assist the driver; they should be there to help with directions and configuring the GPS, for example, not to distract their attention away from the road. Teens should also be encouraged to speak up if they’re riding with a driver who isn’t being safe. Passengers can offer to respond to a text message or change the radio station, for example. Avoid unnecessary or unnecessarily loud conversations, and especially don’t ask the driver to look at something outside the window or on a screen.

Talk to your teens, and be a good role model

Children are always watching their parents while they’re riding in the car, so be a good role model. If they see you texting and driving, or paying too much attention to distracting passengers, they’re going to learn from that behavior and think that it’s okay. No amount of experience behind the wheel can exempt you from the dangers of distracted driving.

Take this time to refresh your knowledge of the latest legislation affecting driving laws in your state. Many states now prohibit talking on the phone, or even operating a cell phone while driving at all. Encourage your teens to participate in a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program. GDL programs are offered in all 50 states, and although they are not required by law, have been proven to reduce teen crash risk by as much as 30%.

Talking to your teen driver about safe driving is important, but remember to also be setting a good example for your children. Research shows that teens mirror their parents’ behavior behind the wheel. It may seem like they’re not paying attention, but research shows that those memories stick, from watching you eat while driving, to getting angry in traffic, to using driving time as a chance to catch up on work-related phone calls.

Another finding was that teens fear their parents will get angry if they don’t answer the phone, so they pick up no matter what. Let your teen know that their safety is your highest priority and it’s okay to wait until they are parked and no longer driving to return your call or text.

teen driving coalition national teen driver safety week 2016

We kicked off National Teen Driver Safety Week yesterday at a press event announcing the Sonic Sticker Project, alongside the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), AAA, and the Metro Police Department. Participating Sonic locations will be handing out stickers reminding parents to talk about safe driving with their teens. A simple conversation could make a huge impact on not only your child’s life but also the lives of others by setting a great example for their peers.