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Effort to Cut No. 1 Killer of Teens

American Academy of Pediatrics Suggests Safe-Driving Contract to Reduce Deadly Crashes
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 4, 2006 -- In an effort to reduce the number of deaths of teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines for teenage drivers.

The guidelines, published in Pediatrics' December edition, include a sample teen driving contract in which teens pledge to drive safely and call home for a ride if they can't.

Highway crashes are the top cause of death for 16- to 20-year-olds, killing about 5,500 and injuring 450,000 each year, according to the AAP.

The teen accident rate is more than four times that of people age 30 to 69. Young teens have the highest crash rates; two-thirds of teens who die from accidents are male, the AAP notes.

The AAP links the high crash rate of teens to these influences:

  • Lack of driver experience
  • Young age at getting a license
  • Failure to use safety belts
  • Inadequate skills at noticing hazards
  • Distractions (cell phones, food, drink, music)
  • Transporting teen passengers
  • Nighttime driving
  • Speeding and reckless driving
  • Fatigue
  • Unsafe vehicle choice (smaller and older cars with fewer safety features)
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug or medication use
  • Inadequate parental limit setting
  • No license, or revoked license
  • ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

 

New Guidelines

To encourage teen driving safety, the AAP suggests pediatricians do the following:

  • Alert parents and teens about high-risk situations for teen drivers
  • Encourage seat belt use
  • Discourage distractions when driving
  • Counsel teens about the dangers of driving while impaired
  • Encourage parents to make sure vehicles are safe and in good condition
  • Encourage parents to set rules and control vehicle access.

The AAP supports "safe-ride" agreements, in which teens promise to call a parent for a ride if they are impaired and parents agree to drive teens home without judgment.

The AAP also recommends teens and parents sign written contracts about teen driving safety.

The guidelines come with a sample contract in which teens promise to drive safely and to ride only with drivers who haven't been drinking or using drugs.

The contract includes rules about driving at night, in bad weather, and with teen passengers -- and the consequences of breaking those rules.

The rules can be tailored by parents.

The AAP suggests parents start with strict rules, such as not letting teens drive after 9 p.m. and banning teen passengers.

Six months later, parents may consider gradually relaxing some rules, depending on the teen's maturity.

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