Young happy man with keys in car

If you have a teenager, you know how cooped up they’ve been at home this year. Now as schools begin to re-open, you can imagine how they might be tempted to fully enjoy their freedom behind the wheel.  

But as parents, we worry. When our kids go out, we hold our breath until they get home safely. And we’d do anything to make sure they don’t become a statistic – even sit them down and talk about car safety.  

National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 18-24.  Even with everything we’ve been through this year, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens. 

As a mother, I know how hard it is to get your kids’ attention. So let me suggest an approach that they will grasp immediately because it involves their smart phone. 

Help them picture a shattered phone screen and then think about a shattered windshield of a car. One is an inconvenience. The other is a lifelong tragedy. 

Protection vs. personal responsibility

Packaging engineers design systems that protect phones during shipping. That includes a box, a hard plastic shell that cradles the phone, and material that cushions its trip to the store.

Once your teen buys the phone, most of them add a protective case. But even the best case won’t protect the phone 100 percent of the time. 

Teens also need to adopt responsible habits. They learn to keep their phones away from water, try not to drop it, and they definitely keep it away from their siblings. 

On the road, their vehicle is the protective case. Many modern cars have crumple zones that absorb and redistribute some of the force from a crash. Then there’s the passenger compartment that works to protect the occupants. 

But even if your teen’s vehicle comes with the most advanced safety features, statistics show that they’re still in danger.

As a parent, you are not powerless. You can prepare your teen to spot risky situations – and to take responsible actions. 

Tips for teen drivers & passengers

Statistics indicate that drivers die the most in crashes. So if your teen is driving, tell them not to be afraid to call you if they’ve been drinking or feel tired. You’d much rather rescue them at a party, than visit them in the hospital. 

And it’s fine to have fun, but let’s keep our eyes on the road and our foot off the gas. As the driver, it’s their job to get their friends home safely. 

If they’re in the passenger seat, then they can take responsible actions, too. 

If the driver is drinking, don’t get in the car. If he or she is distracted or speeding, get them to stop, leave the car, and call you for a pickup. If there’s no seat belt, get out of the car.

Speed, distraction, alcohol, and driving older cars with fewer safety features all put your teen at risk.

But they don’t have to become a statistic. Instead, talk with your teen about car safety and let’s keep the joy of newfound freedom going strong.     


Ahwatukee resident and Arizona State University engineering professor emeritus Norma Hubele is the inventor of, a website that helps families make safer car choices. She is working on a book, “Car Safety: Where the Numbers Help and Where They Don’t.”

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