In Texas, drivers in training must complete a minimum of seven hours of observation time in the car with an instructor and another seven hours behind the wheel. This may not be enough to keep teen drivers safe once they have their licenses and are on the road when they have at least one other teen in the car. According to results of a study recently released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 have fatal crashes with teen-age passengers about eight times more frequently than young adults between 18 and 24 years old with teens in the car. While the total number of crash deaths has dropped in the past ten years, the number of fatalities where teen passengers were present has risen dramatically.
Using statistics from 2011, the study showed a 30 percent rise from 200. While reasons for the trend were not defined, it was noted by the author of the study that the rise in popularity of text messaging mirrored the increase in fatal crashes with teen passengers.
Distracted driving impacts younger drivers for two main reasons – because they have less experience behind the wheel and because their brains are still not fully developed. According to TTI, the portion of the brain responsible for making decisions and understanding the consequences of poor judgment is not fully developed until about age 25.
There are several ways that parents of teens can help their children to be more responsible drivers without the distractions associated with teen passengers.
- Limit the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, especially teen-agers.
- Remind teens that drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts during the operation of a vehicle. The state of Texas enforces fines of $250 for unbelted drivers and up to $200 for unbelted passengers, depending on their age.
- Sign up teens for an online driving school course which meets the state requirements for parent-taught driver education instruction. A course teaching defensive driving online in Texas can also increase awareness and help teens to reduce risk.
- Have your child measure and learn the dimensions of the vehicle they will be driving most often to minimize the chances of finding out by hitting other vehicles.
- Practice smooth starts, stops and lane changes while an experienced adult driver is in the car.
To learn more about teen driver safety and defensive driving in Texas, contact Teas Drive Safe at 1-800-558-9887.