Talk to your teen about the importance of driver safety

Parenting is no easy task, and parenting teenagers comes with its own unique set of challenges. During National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 18-24, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) is launching the Keep Them Safe campaign to remind parents and caregivers to discuss the importance of traffic safety with their young drivers. 

“We want caregivers of teen drivers to understand the vital role they play in communicating important driver safety information,” said Buddy Lewis, director of the THSO. “We recently surveyed teen drivers, and the majority said that their parents are their top source of information when it comes to questions about traffic safety. That is why it’s so important for parents to have safety discussions with their teens. Don’t be afraid to have these conversations every day – it could save your teen’s life.”

In 2019, there were 13,925 crashes in Tennessee that involved a driver under the age of 18. On average, that’s more than 38 crashes every single day. Over 800 of those crashes took place in Hamilton County. From 2015 to 2019, fatalities involving a teen driver have increased by 49 percent in Tennessee. Seventy-two percent of teens surveyed admitted to participating in risky or illegal driving behavior. The most common offenses included driving above the speed limit, driving or riding without a seat belt, and texting while driving.

More Passengers, More Problems: Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up dramatically in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. One-third of teens reportedly did not know the Graduated Driver License (GDL) System restrictions on the number of passengers in a vehicle with a teen driver. It is paramount that parents and caregivers both know the GDL law and enforce it with their teens.

Stop Their Speeding – Before It Stops Them: Eighty-seven percent of teens surveyed admitted that they regularly drove above the posted speed limit. Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially for teens who lack the experience to react to changing circumstances around their cars. 

Love Them? Make Sure They Buckle Up: Nearly 40 percent of teens admitted to driving or riding without a seat belt – even though 94 percent agreed that seat belts save lives. Is it because they feel pressured by peers not to buckle up? Is it because they believe myths like seat belts aren’t needed in the back seat, or on short trips? Parents and caregivers debunking these thought processes with their young drivers can help make sure they are wearing a seat belt every time.

Be the Example: Seventy percent of teens reported that they have witnessed a parent text while driving. Distractions while driving are more than just risky — they can be deadly. In 2018, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in the United States, almost 10 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Remind your teen about the dangers of texting, dialing, or using mobile apps while driving, and set a good example by not participating in these behaviors, either. With the implementation of the Tennessee Hands Free law last year, this behavior is also illegal.

The THSO partners with organizations to increase teen driver safety at the local level. One of those partners is the Life Changing Experiences (LCE) Community Education Project who brings Cinema Drive to schools across the state. Cinema Drive uses multi-sensory technology to illustrate the dire consequences of speeding, texting while driving, and driving under the influence.

“This evidence-based experience makes a huge impact. At least 18 percent of at-risk students will change their intention to behave on the roads after attending one of our events,” said Kenneth Bain, project director of LCE. “We encourage parents to keep the conversations going after events like ours. Reinforcing best practices at home is paramount to making sure the messages are retained.”     

For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and to learn safe driving tips to share with your teens, visit

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