Driving for the first time as a teenager can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be with the right advice and tips.
WalletHub, a personal finance website, recently listed the best and worst states for teens to drive in, with Texas coming in at the No. 10 best state.
To help parents ensure their teens’ safety while also safeguarding their finances, WalletHub analyzed the teen-driving environment in the 50 states across three key dimensions: safety, economic environment and driving laws.
Officials collected 23 metrics of information, with data sets ranging from the number of teen driver fatalities to average cost of car repairs to presence of impaired-driving laws.
In 2002, Texas implemented the Graduated Driver License program to give new drivers a chance to improve their driving skills over time in lower-risk environments.
These individuals may not drive a motor vehicle:
• With more than one passenger in the vehicle under the age of 21 who is not a family member.
• Between midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless the operation of the vehicle is necessary for the driver to work, to attend or participate in a school-related activity, or due to a medical emergency.
• Individuals who are under 18 years of age are restricted from using a wireless communication device, including a hands-free device, until they reach the age of 18, except in the case of an emergency.
With teen drivers, Texas Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Sgt. Dub Gillum said there are several factors that contribute to them being involved in a motor vehicle crash.
“One of those factors is driver inexperience in which teen drivers make common driving errors due to a lack of driving experience,” Gillum said. “A second factor is distracted driving, which is prevalent among all drivers. Finally, the best defense against serious injury during a crash is wearing a seat belt every time on every trip.”
In order to combat some of the issues facing teen drivers, he said it’s important for them to practice driving with a parent to gain experience and it allows the parent to correct common driving errors before the teen develops bad driving behaviors.
He also said it’s important to remember that as of Sept. 1, 2017 Texas passed a statewide law that made it illegal for drivers to read, write or send electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle.
Based on all the metrics from the WalletHub study, Cleburne Police Sgt. Kelly Summey said even though Texas is in the top 10, the other metrics show the state further down the list.
“It’s very important that teens, and their parents who may be teaching them, concentrate on driving skills and learning driving laws regardless of your state, county or city,” Summey said. “The most important tips that we can give teenagers who are beginning to drive are to always pay more attention to things outside your vehicle than those things inside your vehicle. Turn off your phone, turn down your radio and ask any passenger in your vehicle not to distract you while you are driving. Your life means more than that tweet or text message.”
The time from Memorial Day to Labor Day are said to be a time period where there is an increase in fatal crashes involving teenagers, according to the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety. A study done by the foundation in 2017 showed that teens are three-times more likely than adults to be involved in fatal crashes.
Officials from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service encourage parents to get involved with their teens and stay involved through their teen driving years to ensure they follow good driving habits and to set good examples with their own driving behavior.
“Distractions, including other teens in the vehicle, speeding, nighttime driving and lack of seat belt use are all factors that play a role in fatal teen crashes,” according to AgriLife. “Most of these are regulated by the Graduated Driver License Law, which parents should become familiar in order to protect teen drivers in the beginning stages of their driving.”
Labeth Carter, Johnson County family and consumer science extension agent, reminds parents to talk to their teens about safe driving and to follow the following guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
• Learn about the GDL law and be familiar with the restrictions placed on your teen’s license.
• Require seat belt use always.
• Talk to your teen about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Remind them that it is illegal to drink under the age of 21, and it is illegal — and deadly — to drink and drive. If a teen is under 21 years old, their blood alcohol concentration should always be at .00, not just under .08, which is the legal limit for drivers over age 21.
• Be a good role model. Remember that your child looks to you as a driver, so practice safe driving yourself. Set aside time to take your teen on practice driving sessions. Your teen’s learning starts at home.
• Don’t rely solely on a driver’s education class to teach your teen to drive. Remember that driver’s education should be used as just part of a GDL system.
For more tips, visit www.nhtsa.gov.