Oct. 17-23, 2021 is National Teen Driver Safety Week. Whether your teen has just earned their license or has been driving for a couple of years, the Iowa City Police Department and U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourage parents and guardians to discuss the importance of driving safely with your young drivers.
According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of deaths for children ages 15-18 in the United States. In 2019, there were 2,042 people killed nationwide in crashes involving a teen driver (15-18 years old). Of those, 628 were the teen driver.
As a parent or guardian, you can have the biggest impact on your teen driver's choices. Talk to them about safe driving and cell phone usage while driving, become familiar with Iowa's driving restrictions for teen and novice drivers, be a good role model with your own driving habits, and remind your young driver about these rules of the road:
- Don’t Drive Impaired. Set a good example by not driving after drinking or consuming marijuana or other impairing substances. Remind your teen that drinking before turning 21 is illegal, and alcohol and/or marijuana and driving don’t mix, no matter your age. Driving under the influence of any impairing substance — including illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs — could have deadly consequences.
- Buckle Up — Every Trip. Every Time. Everyone — Front Seat and Back. Lead by example. If you wear your seat belt every time you’re in the car, your teen is more likely to do the same. Remind them that it’s important to buckle up on every trip, every time, no matter what (both in the front and back seats), even while in taxis or ride-sharing services.
- Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel. All the Time. Remind your teen about the dangers of texting, dialing, or using mobile apps while driving. Require your young driver to put their phones away and turn on the “Do Not Disturb” or similar phone features when on the road. Distracted driving isn’t limited to phone use. Other passengers, vehicle audio and climate controls, and eating or drinking while driving are all sources of dangerous distractions for teen drivers. Iowa bans all cellphone use for restricted or intermediate license holders and texting while driving. Parents, take note: These laws aren’t just for teen drivers. See the Distracted Driving Law Chart. Set up a contract with your teen before they start driving. If your teen disobeys, don’t hesitate to enforce the penalties.
- Obey All Posted Speed Limits. Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially for teens who lack the experience to react to changing circumstances around their cars. Obey the speed limit and require your teen to do the same.
- Limit Passengers. With each passenger in the vehicle, your teen’s risk of a fatal crash increases. In Iowa, drivers with an intermediate license cannot have more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not a relative during their first six months of driving unless waived by their parents or guardians.