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5 things parents should know about teen drivers

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National Safety Council poll found 76 percent of parents are unaware that the biggest risk to their teens' safety is the vehicle sitting in the driveway.

In observance of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month this May, and at the height of prom and graduation season, the National Safety Council compiled a comprehensive list of things many parents may not – but need to – know about teen driver safety:

  • Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens.
  • Teens crash most often because they are inexperienced – not because they take more risks behind the wheel.
  • Other teen passengers are one of the biggest distractions for teen drivers. Just one teen passenger raises a teen driver's fatal crash risk 44 percent. Two passengers doubles fatal crash risk. Three or more quadruples crash risk.
  • Most fatal nighttime crashes involving teen drivers happen between 9 p.m. and midnight.
  • More than half of teens killed in car crashes were not restrained by a seatbelt.

"Parents tend to worry most about the things we hear in the news, like cyber bullying and drug and alcohol use," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "But car crashes are the number one killer of teens. Ensuring our most vulnerable drivers safely gain the experience they need will result in more teens attending prom and graduation, not their friends' funerals."

Five easy tips for parents:

  • Buckle up on every trip, and make sure passengers are buckled, too.
  • Keep household rules in place, even after school lets out. One-third of parents surveyed said they allow risky behaviors during vacations, like driving late at night.
  • Practice with teens, even after licensure, to ensure they are retaining good driving habits.
  • Model good behaviors. Ninety-five percent of parents who drive distracted do so in front of their teens.
  • Set household cell phone rules. More than half of teens feel pressure from their families to drive distracted.

The National Safety Council encourages parents with new teen drivers to use resources from DriveitHOME.org to help them become effective driving coaches. DriveitHOME.org includes tips, driving lessons and a New Driver Deal, which parents and teens can use to outline household driving rules.

The National Safety Council and the General Motors Foundation also developed the Steer Your Teen in the Right Direction presentation, which can be presented by anyone concerned about teen driver safety.

Parents who live in states with a Teen Safe Driving Coalition can get involved and advocate for change at the grassroots level to influence other parents. The National Safety Council established Coalitions are in California,Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

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