Written By: Patrick Brown
Youth are a danger to themselves and others on the road; sadly, statistics prove that. According to Parachute Canada, only 13% of Canadian licensed drivers are between the ages of 16-24 but they account for 24% of fatalities and 26% of serious injuries in motor vehicle collisions.
Canadian teenagers are at a higher risk of death per kilometre than any other age group, and youth on the road are getting injured at astronomically high rates. Learning how to drive is almost inevitable, but it has to be treated as the extremely serious and involved learning process it truly is. Let’s delve a bit deeper.
First, teenagers are involved in high numbers of motor vehicle collisions because they are more likely to engage in risky behaviour. Three behaviours in particular are issues: distracted driving, impaired driving, and aggressive driving. Teenagers continue to text and drive, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and speed, despite being aware of the associated risk. Before handing over any car keys, have a candid conversation with your child about these dangerous behaviours. Make sure that they know the statistics and the associated penalties and criminal charges.
Tip: Consider creating a safe-driving contract in which your teen pledges to avoid dangerous driving behaviour. A written agreement is helpful because it confirms that teenagers are absolutely clear about what is expected of them.
Next, as a parent, model good behaviour. Come to a full stop at stop signs, drive the speed limit and respond calmly to other drivers. Set a positive example that your kids are likely to follow.
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) recommends that you take advantage of teachable moments while you are driving with your teenager in the passenger seat. For example, you might say, “It’s raining, so I’m braking earlier in case the road is slick.”
Finally, make sure that your teenager waits 3 to 6 months before taking any friends as passengers. Having other teens in the car is too distracting, especially to brand new drivers. It is safest for young drivers to drive alone or only with family members while they get used to the road, without companions. (Even loud music can be too distracting; I’ve seen that as a personal injury lawyer in Toronto, so advise against it, too.)
Project Gearshift, a campaign run by Parachute Canada, works to promote teen driver safety through youth and community engagement. To learn more, click here.