No one starts their day anticipating getting into a car crash. But it only takes one time of riding in a vehicle without buckling up for a life to be changed forever. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens in the U.S. Fatalities are split almost equally between teen drivers and passengers. In half of all fatal crashes, the teen was not wearing a seatbelt.
A recent study found that one in four teens say they don’t use a seat belt on every ride. The report, “Teens in Cars,” released by Safe Kids Worldwide and funded as part of a $2 million grant from the General Motors Foundation, surveyed 1,000 teens ages 13 to 19. The report looked at why teens don’t always buckle up, how often they text or talk on the phone while driving, and what they do when they feel unsafe in a car.
The top reasons teens gave for not buckling up were that they forgot or it was not a habit, they were not going far, or the seat belt was not comfortable. Asked why other teens don’t buckle up, one in three teens said that going to a party was a reason.
Another eye-opening finding from the report is that 39 percent of teens said they have ridden with a teen driver who was texting, and 95 percent said they think other teens have ridden with drivers who were texting. Teens who don’t always use seat belts are also more likely to report that they text while driving than those who say they wear a seat belt every time. About 43 percent of teens reported riding as a passenger with a teen driver who was talking on a phone.
A few more surprising results include:
• More than half of teens said they have seen a parent talking on the phone while driving, and 28 percent have been riding in a car with a parent who was texting.
• Forty-nine percent of teens felt concerned for their safety when riding with a teen driver and 31 percent of teens said they felt unsafe with a parent driving.
• When asked what teens did in a situation when in a car with someone driving dangerously, four in 10 teens said they asked the driver to stop, but almost the same number said they did nothing.
Safe Kids Worldwide recommends these three tips for parents of teens to remember while riding in cars:
• Buckle-up on every ride, every time. This is important for everyone, both drivers and passengers. Make buckling-up a habit starting when kids are young.
• Be a good role model in all your driving habits. Teens often model their behavior from their parents, and they’ve been watching their parents in cars since they were infants. So if parents are putting phones down and buckling-up on every ride, then teens may be more likely to do the same.
• Talk to teens and kids about ways to speak up if a driver of any age isn’t driving safely.
Visit safekids.org to learn more about teens in cars and other child safety tips.