RICHMOND – National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 15-21, and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), home of the Virginia Highway Safety Office, encourages parents to talk with their teens about the importance of driving safely and urges teens to speak up if they see something dangerous or feel unsafe in a vehicle.
“The freedom of driving is exciting for teens, but it is also serious business. We need to start conversations about smart driving habits to empower teens to stay safe,” said DMV Commissioner Gerald Lackey, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Parents, please talk to your teens. Teenagers, your voice matters. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends. If you see a friend speeding, driving without a seat belt or constantly taking their eyes off the road, say something. Your voice in their ear could save their life.”
So far this year, crashes involving teen drivers account for 15% of all crashes in Virginia, and teen driver crashes are up 6% over this time last year (13,213 crashes and 25 fatalities in 2023 vs. 12,452 crashes and 27 fatalities in 2022). In an effort to educate Virginians and help prevent fatalities, DMV shares the top 5 safety tips to help keep teen drivers safe behind the wheel.
Tip 1: Buckle Up
- Always wear your seat belt and make sure your passengers do the same. Drivers are twice as likely to die in frontal crashes when back-seat passengers are unbuckled. Last year, 461 teen drivers were unrestrained when they crashed. 97 of those teen drivers were killed or seriously injured. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2021 nationally, 51% of teen drivers who died in crashes were unbuckled.
Tip 2: Keep Your Distance and Follow a Safe Speed
- Keep four seconds of following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Tailgating and speeding are some of the main factors in teen driver crashes. Last year, over 3,000 speeding teen drivers were involved in crashes.
Tip 3: Focus on the Road
- Driving is a complex task and requires your full attention. Driving distracted does not just mean using your phone. Other distractions are blasting music, loading the car up with friends, eating, and even daydreaming. Last year, over 2,000 distracted teen drivers were involved in crashes.
Tip 4: Always Drive Sober
- Alcohol and illegal drugs slow reaction time and distort reality, making you think you're driving well when you're not. Virginia's "zero tolerance" law for teens includes losing your license for a year plus fines or community service. Last year, 254 drinking teen drivers were involved in crashes.
Tip 5: Get Enough Sleep
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens need at least nine hours of sleep per night, which allows you to stay alert while driving. Driving drowsy is dangerous. Last year, 235 teen driver crashes involved driver fatigue.