Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for teens. That’s an eye-opening statistic for anyone to read, especially parents. In North Dakota, there is a statewide strategy called Vision Zero, to reduce motor vehicle crash deaths and serious injuries to zero. The goal of zero fatalities is not only attainable, but also vital. When it comes to your life, or the lives of teen drivers, family, and friends, is any other number acceptable?
Parents, grandparents and guardians play a vital role in determining what kind of driver a teen will be. From setting examples when they drive, to setting limits when teens drive. This includes teens knowing that using a cellphone while driving is not only dangerous, it’s illegal. This April, the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) is teaming up with Vision Zero Partners AAA-The Auto Club Group and the North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC) to help parents talk to teen drivers about always driving distraction free.
That discussion starts by knowing the law. In North Dakota, texting and driving is illegal for all drivers. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any electronic communications devices, including cellphones. Texting while driving is a behavior so dangerous, drivers are 23 times more at risk of a crash or near-crash event and six times more likely to crash than a drunk driver. Even though texting is one of the most common forms of distraction, it’s more than just taking your eyes off the road. Distracted driving also includes taking your hands off the wheel or taking your mind off driving. According to AAA research, six out of 10 teen crashes involve driver distraction. Top distractions include, interacting with one or more passengers, using a cellphone, looking at something inside and outside the vehicle.
One way to be actively engaged in a teen’s driving habits is to develop a parent-teen driving agreement, available from AAA. This will set expectations for teens when they drive. Plus, it’s a good reminder for parents on how to be a good example. All drivers can also download and use a “do not disturb” app from your app store.
Also consider enrolling teens in safe driving educational courses beyond drivers ed, such as the upcoming Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) in Fargo featuring Alive at 25. The Ford DSFL program is one of the nation’s most comprehensive teen driver safety programs and allows participants to get involved in a variety of traffic safety activities. Alive at 25 focuses on behavior, judgment, decision making and consequences, and provides tools for making positive choices. All students who complete the Alive at 25 course may qualify for an insurance discount and a point reduction.
For more tips and tricks on how to talk to teen drivers visit TeenDriving.AAA.com/ND and for additional resources on how dangerous distracted driving can be visit VisionZero.ND.gov
Together we can take and teach personal responsibility behind the wheel to reach our goal of Vision Zero.
Gene LaDoucer represents AAA – The Auto Club Group, Don Moseman is master instructor for the North Dakota Safety Council, and Karin Mongeon is safety division director for the North Dakota Department of Transportation.