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Extreme Driving Situation Programs on the Rise in Response to #1 Cause of Teen Death: Teen Driving

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for teens. The risk holds true for youths aged 15 to 20, but is most pronounced for 16-year-olds, who are just starting to drive and have limited driving experience combined with an immature attitude toward risk-taking.

teen drivers edge course

Teen drivers aged 16-19 have a fatality rate four times the rate of drivers aged 25-69.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 16-year-olds are more likely to be in car crashes involving excessively high speeds, loss of control, driver error, and no seat belt use. Driving at night and with other teen passengers in the car significantly increases these risks.

Although 15- to 20-year-olds make up just 7 percent of licensed drivers, they are responsible for 20 percent of all reported collisions and 14 percent of fatalities. According to NHTSA:

  • In 2004, 7,386 people were killed in crashes involving drivers ages 16-20.

  • Teen drivers aged 16-19 have a fatality rate four times the rate of drivers age 25-69, based on estimated miles traveled annually.

  • Sixteen-year-old drivers have a crash rate three times more than 17-year-olds, five times greater than 18-year-olds, and two times greater than 85-year-olds.

Why High School Driver Education May Not be Enough

Most teens learn driving skills through a high school education course. Although this is convenient and effective as far as basic skills go, many crashes involve teenage attitudes and decision-making skills, along with pure lack of experience -- things not always covered in a typical driver's ed course.

To buttress high school education courses, a number of one-day teen driving schools have popped up to help teach teens "hands-on" driving experience in real-world, extreme situations. The courses -- some of which are offered free of charge -- teach teens how to handle slippery roads, curves they approach too fast, emergency braking and other essential driving skills.

"Driver's Edge" Teaches Teen Drivers Essential Skills -- for FREE!

If you would like to enroll your teen in a booster driving course, Driver's Edge, a non-profit organization, is an excellent option. In short, Driver's Edge is a no-cost educational program for young drivers (aged 15-21) that teaches real-life emergency avoidance and response techniques, and overall driver safety.

The program is effective (they boast a 53 percent reduction in collisions over a 12-month period, according to surveys), yet is taught with an "MTV flavor" that keeps teens interested and focused.

During the half-day course, teens experience hands-on driving instruction, including:

  • Evasive lane change maneuvers

  • ABS and non-ABS braking exercises and comparisons

  • Panic braking instruction

  • Skid control instruction

Meanwhile, interactive presentations teach teens (and their parents):

  • The development of safe driving practices

  • Awareness of surroundings and proper use of anticipatory vision

  • Tire safety

  • Proper seating, steering wheel and mirror position

  • The dangers of impaired driving, provided by local law enforcement officials

  • Basic essential car care instruction

The Driver's Edge programs are conducted on a National Tour (with different cities visited on specific dates, as well as in Las Vegas, Nevada on an ongoing basis). If you would like to be notified when the 2007 schedule is available, you can add your contact information to their notification list.

Other One-Day Teen Driving Courses for 2007

Other driver education options for your teen (some of which charge a fee) include:

Parents, Teen Driving Tips to Share With Your Child

teen drivers edge course

To help reduce the risk of an accident, parents should restrict their teen's nighttime driving and limit the number of passengers their teen is allowed to have in the car.

Whether you opt to enroll your teen in an extreme driving course or not, the following tips from the NHTSA will help keep your teen safe behind the wheel:

  • Restrict night driving. Most fatal teen car crashes occur from 9 p.m. to midnight.

  • Restrict passengers. Teen passengers can distract the driver, encourage greater risk-taking, and are linked with an increased risk of accidents.

  • Supervise practice driving. Go with your teen on a variety of practice runs to drive in a variety of situations and areas.

  • Be a safe driver yourself. Remember, you're a role model for your teen!

  • Require safety-belt use. Don't just assume your teen is using the safety belt -- tell them it's a requirement.

  • Prohibit drinking. As with safety belts, don't assume your teen knows not to drink and drive. Tell them that it's both illegal and highly dangerous.

  • Choose a safe vehicle for your teen to drive. Don't worry about image -- avoid small cars, which don't offer much protection, high-performance cars that might encourage speeding, and trucks and sport utility vehicles, which are prone to roll over.

Recommended Reading

How to Talk to a Teenager (and Know That They're Listening)

Emotional Abuse in Teen Dating Relationships: What Every Parent Needs to Know


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Teen Driving Foundation

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