Keeping Your Teen Safe While Driving in South Carolina

21-27 October 2018 marks National Teen Driver Safety Week? Sponsored by the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Traffic Safety Marketing division, this campaign seeks to promote parent-teen conversation toward improving teen driving safety not just for one week, but all the time.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for 15-to-18-year-olds in the US. In 2015 alone, approximately 99,000 teens were involved in motor vehicle accidents with more than 1,972 teen drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents. Among the greatest dangers to teen drivers include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Improper or no seat belt use
  • Alcohol
  • Number of passengers

Because of the regularity of such accidents, they rarely make the news, thus contributing to a false sense of security among teen drivers and their parents.

Why are teens at such a high risk?

Driving requires focus, good judgment, risk-management capacity, and muscle memory. Because the human brain isn’t fully developed until one reaches his/her mid-20’s—with the frontal lobe and higher executive functions the last to develop—teens’ brains are not fully equipped with the necessary cognitive functions critical for safe driving. Compounding the problem is the reluctance of teens to follow any more rules than they have to.

What can parents do?

At the very least, parents should devote ample time to discussing safe driving with their teen and spending time in the passenger seat while their teen is driving. Establishing an equilibrium between letting your teen drive alone and coaching safe driving practices while in the vehicle with them is key.

According to the Traffic Safety Store’s Traffic Resource Center, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and State Farm Insurance have collaborated in designing material to promote safe teen driving. They have come up with several critical tips parents can adopt to protect their teen drivers.

Ensure two-way communication

As is the case with every issue regarding teens and adolescents, talking openly goes a long way toward fostering trust and cooperation between parents and their teens. One recommendation is to create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement (PTDA) that outlines specific rules—both household and legal—and other responsibilities to which the teen must adhere to maintain driving privileges. The agreement should also detail consequences for violations and other conditions in order to retain driving privileges. Several companies, including Allstate Insurance, offer basic PTDAs online. Also critical is to treat these agreements like the contracts they, essentially, are.

Understand the risks and set a good example

Parents erroneously believe that drunk driving is the biggest problem for teen drivers. In reality, however, distracted driving—particularly texting while driving (TWD)—is the largest risk. Accordingly, as a parent, don’t do anything while driving that you wouldn’t want your teens to emulate. One creative way to ensure that you are setting a good example is to invite your teen to evaluate your own driving performance and then using said evaluation as a springboard for conversation.

Take advantage of the state’s Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) program

GDLs have been proven to reduce teen crashes and, today, every state has one. In South Carolina, the eligibility requirements are:

15 years old—learner’s permit

15 years and 180 days—provisional license

16 years old—special restricted or unrestricted with conditional license

17 years old—regular driver license

Among potential license restrictions are night driving and passenger transport. In fact, having additional teen passengers in the vehicle increases accident risk among teen drivers. Specifically, one teen passenger increases the accident risk by 50%, and three or more increase accident risk fourfold.

The evidence demonstrates that GDLs have contributed to the overall 5% decrease in teen driving accidents; however, parents should only view them as a minimum requirement and should continue to drive with their teen well after s/he receives his/her driver’s license.

Employ surveillance methods

Increasingly sophisticated technology has resulted in apps that can help monitor new drivers’ behaviors. Driver Feedback—an app released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and State Farm Insurance—helps monitor abrupt acceleration, braking, and swerving, all of which are common among new drivers. Additionally, American Family Insurance’s (AFI) Teen Safe Driver Program enables parents to install internal car cameras, and footage can be analyzed by professional driving coaches. Preliminary evidence demonstrates a 96% increase in seat belt use among teens enrolled in the program and a 70% decrease in risky driving behavior.

Take advantage of teen-parent driving education programs

While only a few states require that parents complete an educational program in conjunction with their teen’s GDL, others offer volunteer programs for parents. For a complete list of recommended programs, visit GHSA’s Promoting Parent Involvement in Teen Driving.

Our kids are our most valuable asset, and keeping them safe is every parent’s primary consideration. Because driving carries with it additional responsibilities and dangers, ensuring your teen is well-prepared and knowledgeable about potential hazards will go a long way toward keeping them safe.

The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not read this article to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken to you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which you may have a case.