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Moms With Sons - Teens and Responsible Driving

With Teen Boy Drivers at Greater Risk For Crashes, Safe Driving Habits Essential

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Moms With Sons - Teens and Responsible Driving

© Lisa Peardon/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Updated July 02, 2009
For most Americans, driving is a necessity. For our children, particularly our sons, it’s also a rite of passage. With a driver’s license comes independence. With inexperience come accidents. As always, as parents we are the people our sons look to for examples. Driving is no exception.

Facts and Figures

Teenagers and driving aren't the best mix. Consider the statistics:
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers.
  • 16 year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
  • 16-year-olds are three times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than the average of all drivers.
  • 3,490 drivers age 15-20 died in car crashes in 2006, up slightly from 2005.
  • Drivers age 15-20 accounted for 12.9 % of all the drivers involved in fatal crashes and 16% of all the drivers involved in police-reported crashes in 2006.
  • 31% of teen drivers killed in 2006 had been drinking, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and 25% had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.
  • Statistics show that 16 and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
Teens admit to driving habits they know are risky, yet seem unfazed by the dangers. According to a 2005 survey of 1,000 people ages 15 and 17 conducted by the Allstate Foundation:
  • More than half (56 percent) of young drivers use cell phones while driving
  • 69% said that they speed to keep up with traffic
  • 64% said they speed to go through a yellow light
  • 47% said that passengers sometimes distract them
  • Nearly half said they believed that most crashes involving teens result from drunk driving

Don't Set a Bad Example

Cell phones, texting, and loud music are distractions not exclusive to teenagers. What are parents doing that you know the kids shouldn’t be doing? For example, driving when you're tired can be just as hazardous as driving drunk. When your senses are dulled, your reaction time is slower. Falling asleep at the wheel is an unfortunate possibility if you drive while feeling exhausted. Getting yourself hyped-up on caffeine to face the day isn’t the best alternative either.

Keep in mind that as mothers, we have an influence on our sons.

Boys and Teen Motor Vehicle Crashes

The issue of teenagers and driving is amplified by gender differences -- a terrifying reality for mothers with sons.
  • In 2003, two out of every three teens killed in motor vehicle crashes were males.
  • When a male passenger is in a vehicle, one-fourth of teenage drivers report they exceed the speed limit by at least 15 miles per hour.
  • Of the 15% of teenage males who engage in risky driving, 22% had a male teenage passenger in the vehicle and only 6% had a female teenage passenger in the vehicle.
  • Males: In 2005, the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 16-19 was more than one and a half times that of their female counterparts.
  • Of the 13% of teenage female drivers showing risky driving behavior, 13% had a male teenage passenger, and 16% had a female passenger.
  • Young people ages 15-24 represent only 14% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females.

Why a Passenger's Gender Matters

New research from the National Institutes of Health shows teen boys and girls tend to drive faster and take more risks when they have a male passenger. What impulses nudge a boy toward riskier behavior when he has a male buddy in the car with him? Maybe he feels pressure from friends to drive in an unsafe manner. Perhaps he’s more concerned about impressing his passengers than keeping them safe. When boy drivers have male passengers, they may tend to be a little more reckless and push the limits.

However, the above doesn't necessarily hold true when the passenger is female. Boy drivers may handle a vehicle with greater caution when a girl is a passenger to avoid getting into an accident in front of someone they want to impress.

Experience is Key

Safety experts advise parents not to allow teens to drive with boys or girls until they’ve gained experience. The first 12-18 months after your teen driver has earned his or her license is not a time to be the taxi. If a teen doesn't have much experience behind the wheel, it’s safer for friends and acquaintances to meet at the final destination.

It’s important for parents to encourage their children to speak up when their friends are taking risks. Voicing their concerns could save their lives.

Eyes Watching You

Finally, the next time you’re about to text, check email, call a friend, drive too fast, zip though a red light or a stop sign...think again about the eyes watching you. Whether they're glancing at you from the passenger seat or visible only in your rear view mirror, consciously or subconsciously they're taking in of what you're doing and witnessing both the good and the bad.

They are learning from you.

Statistics cited in this article are from the following sources:
Teen Driving: Leading Cause of Death for Teenagersfrom Allstate.com
Teen Driving Statistics from the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association
Teen Drivers Fact Sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Driving with Teenage Boys from Connect With Kids

Mothers of boys face unique gender challenges as they work hard to ensure that their sons will grow up to be caring, responsible adult men. In an ongoing series of articles, Renee Martinez examines the intersection of motherhood and gender issues from the perspective of a mother raising boys.

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