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According to the National Organization for Youth Safety, car accidents are the No. 1 killer of teens in America today. Far too many are completely preventable.

But many of these lives can be saved, if only parents and teens can talk and make a change that will stop these tragedies.  Let’s make that effort now.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say that May and July are two of the deadliest months for teen car accidents. With proms, graduations, concerts, trips “Down the Shore” and to lakes and camping, this is the perfect time to sit down with your teen drivers and have a real talk about distracted driving, drinking and driving, and overall safety behind the wheel.
I’m a lawyer and give legal advice to my clients.  It is not my intention to pose as a parenting expert, so you should do what you have found works best for you.  However you do it, though, you should communicate with your kid(s) about several important aspects of safe driving.  Now is the time to do it.  I will share three rules of thumb which I find helpful: 1) Talk with your teens, not at them. You will have to restrict some behaviors and prohibit others entirely.  Don’t just do these things but explain to your teenage WHY it is necessary; 2) Establish clear and reasonable rules in advance; and 3) Enforce guidelines and consequences if the rules are broken.
TOP 5 RULES TO KEEP YOUR TEEN DRIVERS SAFE
#1. No drinking and driving: Start with yourself and set a good example by not driving after drinking. Remind your teen that drinking before the age of 21 is illegal, and even a little alcohol and driving never, ever mix.  You might want to explain that even if they are not drunk or impaired, they should not drive even if they have had anything to drink because it will still affect their coordination and reflexes, if only a little.  Impress upon them that sometimes the difference between safety and a fatal accident is “only a little.” A single drink can be the difference.
#2. Buckle up: They may have learned this as kids, but it always helps to remind your teen it’s important to buckle up on every trip, even the short ones. This is another one where you can lead by example.
#3. No cell phones or texting while driving: Tell your teen the phone is off limits when they’re behind the wheel. And refrain from doing so yourself.  Personally, I believe that teens understand the dangers of drinking and driving far better than using their cell phones while driving.  Education is needed here not only about the dangers but that driving and cell phone use is illegal in New Jersey. Is it really worth a $200 fine to text “OMG! OMG!” ?
#4. Don’t speed: Avoid the lead foot. Drive the speed limit and require your teen to do the same. Explain that every time your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples.
#5. No more than one passenger: This is a tough one for many teenagers.  They are excited about driving and want to share the experience with as many people as possible.  They must understand, though, that a car is a means of transportation to get to and from social events and driving should not be a social event in and of itself.  Don’t allow your teen to drive with more than one passenger at a time. Statistics show that the more passengers in the car when a teen is driving, the higher the likelihood of a car crash.
5 TIPS TO REDUCE CAR CRASHES BY TEEN DRIVERS 
COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL
Some of these overlap the points previously expressed but, if so, I believe them important enough to re-state.
1.  Set a night driving restriction.  Teens drive only 15 percent of their miles at night, but 40 percent of fatal auto accidents happen during that time period.  Start with early driving curfews which your teenager can extend by demonstrating his or her ability to safely operate the car during later hours.  Keep in mind, and explain to your teenagers, that the dangerous drivers are on the road later, so they really shouldn’t want to be sharing the road with them anyway.
2.  Set a passenger restriction.  For teens, one passenger increases their crash risk by 48 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That risk grows exponentially as more passengers are added – 258 percent more with two passengers and 307 percent more with three or more. The National Safety Council recommends no one under the age of 18 allowed in the car during a teen’s first year of driving. A recent study by the Automobile Association of America’s Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a teen driver’s risk of dying in a car accident sharply increases when there are other teens in the car. Here’s an article about the study in The Washington Post. The car should not be a social environment for teens.
3.  Prohibit all cell phone use while driving.  In New Jersey, it’s against the law anyway. The National Safety Council estimates show that 23 percent of all car accidents annually involve cell phone use. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found teens are more likely to use cell phones behind the wheel than any other age group. More than half of teens ages 16 to 17 admit to talking on a cell phone behind the wheel, according to the Pew Research Center. Here’s a great New York Times article on distracted driving and teens, and how many young drivers are actually in denial about their distracted driving behavior: Understanding Motives Behind Teens’ Distracted Driving. Parents must stress that this behavior is unacceptable, and set a good example.
4.  Prohibit alcohol. Completely.  Drinking and driving remains a problem among teenagers. According to NHTSA, nearly one-third of drivers ages 15 to 20 who were killed in car accidents had been drinking.
5.  Make wearing a seat belt mandatory.  In fact, it is mandatory under New Jersey law.  Teen drivers, like every driver, should refuse to start a car until everyone is buckled up.  Safety belts are  the most effective safety device in the car. Everyone should be buckled up at all times. NHTSA data shows wearing a safety belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by about 50 percent.
Hopefully, these behaviors will be practiced this summer and will become habit for our kids in the years to come when they get their own vehicles and go out on their own.
The lawyers at Joworisak & Associates are not only experienced personal injury, slip & fall and workers’ compensation attorneys, they are parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles as well.  On behalf of them, we all hope your children in Middlesex, Union, Hudson and Essex counties and throughout the State of New Jersey, do the smart and safe things while driving this summer.  We recognize, though, that not everyone always does the safe or smart thing while driving a vehicle.  If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call us at Joworisak & Associates.  When you contact our office, we will immediately set up a free, confidential appointment where you will meet an attorney who will listen to you and evaluate your case.  We have conveniently located offices in Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, Jersey City, Roselle and East Orange. We understand traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries, back injuries and other medical problems caused by accidents and the problems that they can cause in your daily life.  Our law firm will always work to make sure you are compensated fairly.
Whether you were a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or the occupant of car, motorcycle, boat or have been hurt at an amusement park or  injured in any kind of accident, you should immediately call one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at JOWORISAK & ASSOCIATES at (732) 442-5900 during regular business hours or 1-800-RITELAW (800-748-3529) toll free.  You can even call either number on weekends or after regular business hours. We have offices in  in Middlesex, Union, Essex and Hudson counties.
– Karim
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