What Parents Need to Know about Child and Teen Car Safety
The facts couldn’t be clearer: Car accidents are the number-one cause of accidental deaths in children ages 0-19 nationally. And in New York State, Suffolk County has the highest teen death rate from auto accidents. Motor vehicle accidents are also responsible for an alarming proportion of disabling injuries. The experts at Stony Brook Children’s want you to not only be aware of this problem, but also to take action to keep your children and teens safe. Here, Jane McCormack, RN, Trauma Program Manager, answers important questions.
What hazards do teen drivers face on the road?
Even more than drinking and driving — which thanks to strong messaging is at an all-time low — distracted driving is a huge problem for teens. This includes anything that takes their attention away from the road: cell phones, texting, music and GPS, but most of all, other passengers. For every additional passenger, the fatal crash rate goes up. New York has a good graduated licensing program that helps limit the number of passengers, but parents can do their part too in making teens earn driving (and passenger) privileges in three-month increments.
What is the number one thing parents can do to help keep their teen drivers safe?
Get involved and stay involved. Just because a teen has completed driver’s education training and has received a license does not mean he or she is road ready. Studies show that the part of the brain affecting judgment is not fully developed until age 25. So this fact, combined with novice driving skills, means that teens need more supervision than you might think. Here are some steps that parents should consider:
What about these parent/teen driver “contracts.” Are they effective?
Yes, because they make expectations clear upfront. Here are sample contracts, (English) (Spanish) but feel free to make up your own. Some common agreements: not to text and drive, to be home at a certain time, to not drink and drive but also to not get in a car with a driver who has been drinking, and so on. Some parents and teens agree upon a code word that when used the parent agrees to pick the teen up at the party or whatever unsafe situation he or she might be in, no questions asked.
What are the new guidelines for child safety seats?
Over the past several years, not only has the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its recommendations, but New York State has made changes in the laws governing child seats. Here are the most up-to-date guidelines.
More information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey.
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