My teen driving - eek!If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that car crashes are the leading safety hazard for young children. But what is the greatest safety risk for teens? Drugs? Alcohol? Bullying?

Nope, it’s still cars, and most people don’t know it.

A recent survey by the National Safety Council found that 76 percent of parents weren’t aware that car crashes are the main threat to teens’ safety, and even fewer enforce habits that would help to prevent crashes. Lack of experience and poor decision-making skills lead to crashes, especially in a teen’s first year of driving.

According to the NSC, the top five risks regarding teen driving are:

  • Impaired driving. In 2011, one million teens drove after drinking.
  • Driving at night. Teens are nearly twice as likely to have a fatal crash after dark.
  • Driving with young passengers (siblings or friends). The fatal crash risk increases 44 percent when other young people are in the car.
  • A lack of practice. NHTSA recommends that parents spend at least 50 hours supervising their teens’ driving, but 44 percent don’t.
  • Distracted driving. Distracted driving, including phone use, is responsible for 58 percent of teenage crashes.

How can you make your teens safer? It’s not always easy or possible to control what a teenager does, but supervision, discussing risks, and enforcing rules can go a long way. Remember to set a good example by practicing safe driving yourself. If you need more guidance, NHTSA and SafeKids have teen driving resources.

You can also check out our recommendations for relatively inexpensive cars that would make good choices for teens. A safe car doesn’t mean you or your teen can be more lax, but it might help if they (or someone else) make a bad decision.