Experts share tips for safe teen driving

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 5:21 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2023 at 5:22 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - January is Teen Driving Awareness Month.

According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. But experts TV5 spoke with say there are ways to prevent these tragedies from happening.

Data from the Maine Department of Public Safety show more teens are dying on Maine roads in recent years.

“2018 and 2019 were relatively low at only five fatalities. But since 2020, we’ve been over double digits. And it’s a trend that we really want to try to help reverse,” said Nicholas Brown, highway safety coordinator, Maine Department of Public Safety.

According to AAA, 60% of all teen driving crashes are the result of distraction.

“When it comes to teen drivers, the distraction factor is huge,” said Pat Moody, director of public affairs, AAA Northern New England. “One would think that cell phones might be the biggest culprit. It’s not, it’s number two. But, friends in the vehicle is the biggest challenge. And we see that that risk increases exponentially as you add more and more kids in the vehicle.”

Of course, cell phones do play a role in distracted driving. However there are ways we can use mobile technology to our advantage.

“One of the most popular tools that you can use in your phone, whether it be an iPhone, or an Android device is driving focus or driving mode. And what that does with your device is it actually blocks notifications and text messages unless the phone detects that you are connected to a hands-free tool,” said Tabatha McKay, area vice president and general manager of New England for USCellular.

They suggest making a contract with your teen to lay out the rules of the road for your household.

“What are the responsibilities of the new teen driver? What are the consequences if the break the rules of using that family vehicle?” said Moody.

“One of the ways that USCellular has to support that is through our Digital Family Matters website. There’s actually a downloadable and customizable parent/child agreement that parents and teens can use to establish appropriate expectations,” said McKay.

Above all else, perhaps the best thing you can do is evaluate your own behavior.

And remember, it’s never too early to start.

“You need to model that good safe driving behavior. It’s unreasonable to think that your teen, who has been watching you for all these years, is going to react or have a different behavior behind the wheel than you do,” said Moody.

“Make sure you always have your seatbelt on. Always put the phone away and always have your attention on the road because you know, your kids do pick up on all that stuff. So the first and most important thing is to always set that good example, even from a young age,” said Brown.