This week we covered the tragic story of a fatal car accident in Issaquah, Washington, in which an 18-year-old boy was killed while speeding on I-405 near Ellensburg. Drugs and alcohol weren’t factors in the crash, according to the Washington State Patrol, but the young man was driving far too fast to stop when the traffic in front of him suddenly slowed.
This story is all too familiar: a male teen speeding recklessly – and for no apparent reason. He was wearing his seat belt, he was not in a rush, and he wasn’t driving while intoxicated. He was simply speeding. According to a recent study conducted by the Allstate Foundation, almost 20 percent of teens admit that speeding is fun, and over half say that they’ve broken the posted speed limit by over 10 miles per hour. One in four say that they are aggressive drivers.
Why do teens – especially male teens – speed? Psychologists explain that teens naturally engage in more high-risk behaviors than adults, and that this high-risk behavior often includes reckless driving or poor decision-making. Very simply, the teenaged brain is not yet fully developed at 16 or 17 years old, and many teens may not be able to fully evaluate risk. In addition, many teens report attitudes of not thinking that a car accident will happen to them, or to thinking that they are in some way invincible.
What can you do to help your own teens understand the very real risks of speeding? • Be a good example. Teens absolutely look to their parents when they establish their own driving behaviors. • Share the statistics. Does your teen know that car accidents are the number one killer of young people in America? Or that teens account for more than ten percent of all fatal accidents? • Make them aware of the dangers of peer pressure. Many teens admit to driving faster when friends or in the car, and a majority admit that they would not speak up if they felt unsafe in a car. Make sure your kids know that speaking up could save their life. • Make sure they buckle up. Wearing a seat belt is the very best way to reduce your chances of a serious car accident injury, no matter how old you are.