Teen Driver Risk Disk
At I Drive Smart, our top priority is safe driving. From our experience and data on fatal teen accidents, we know that certain factors significantly increase the risks for teen drivers. For this reason, we have created a “Teen Driver Risk Disk” tool that incorporates these risk data to calculate a Risk Score. Parents and their teens can then assess the level of risk…and potentially use some of the strategies listed on the back of the disk to mitigate these risks.
This innovative tool was recently featured on “The Extra Mile” segment (with Monika Samtani) on WUSA Channel 9 News
Before using the Risk Disk, there are some non-negotiable items for any driver:
- There will be zero tolerance of impaired driving, whether from drugs or alcohol. While teens may feel that a single drink will not impair their driving, studies have proven otherwise. This caveat includes not getting into the car of someone who has been (or appears to have been) drinking alcohol or using any drugs. Peers should also take whatever steps they can to prevent others who are under the influence from getting behind the wheel of a car.
- There will be no distracted driving. While much attention has been devoted to “texting and driving,” the reality is that distracted driving can take many forms, including fiddling with music (MP3 players, iPods), programming a GPS while moving, talking on a cell phone, or even interacting with other passengers (especially when they are unruly).
Beyond the major non-negotiable items listed above, there are three major factors that impact the level of risk faced by teen drivers.
- Length Driving (Months Driving): If the driver is under 20 years of age, the risks of a fatal crash are 3-4 times higher. If the driver is in the first 6 months of driving, the risks are 8 times higher.
- Time of Day (Night/Day): The per mile fatal crash rate is four times higher at night (after 9 PM) than during the day.
- # of Passengers: When driving with other teen passengers, teens are more likely to be distracted. Data show that the each teen passenger can potentially double the risk of a fatal accident for a teen driver.
How The Risk Disk Works
A parent or teen simply needs to rotate the Risk Disk to display the proper combination of risk factors, and it will display the Risk Score. The Risk Score in the top window is computed based on the risk variables that are displayed, with a higher score indicating a higher risk.
The calculations are as follows:
- Step One: All teen drivers begin with a risk value of 3 points (at least three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident).
- Step Two (Months Driving): If fewer than six months of driving experience (<6), add 5 points of risk.
- Step Three (Time of Day): If driving after 9 PM, add 4 points of risk.
- Step Four (# of Passengers): If there are teen passengers, multiply the number of these passengers by 2 to calculate the added risk (maximum 6 points), and add this to the score. For example, two passengers add 4 points and 3 or more passengers add 6 points of risk.
- Step Five (Risk Score): Add up the risk values to come up with a total Risk Score.
- Example One: A teen driver (3 points) with fewer than six months (<6) of driving experience (+5 points) is driving three (3) teen passengers (+6 points) during the day (align Day/Night with the yellow circle for day). The Risk Score is 14 points.
- Example Two: A teen driver (3 points) with more than six months (6+) of driving experience is driving without any teen passengers (0) at night (align Day/Night with the black circle for night) (+4 points). The Risk Score is 7 points.
- Example Three: A teen driver (3 points) with more than six months (6+) of driving experience is driving three (3) teen passengers (+6 points) at night (align Day/Night with the black circle for night) (+4 points). The Risk Score is 13 points.
The Risk Score can be thought of as falling into one of three categories, with each category and the mitigating strategies shown on the back-side of the Risk Disk:
- Moderate Risk (< 8 points): There is inherently higher risk faced by a young driver. When the score is in this range, there are still strategies that can be taken to minimize the risk faced.
- Have the teen call or text a parent upon arriving at the planned destination. This helps reduce the chance that the teen is not being honest about the travel plans and destination.
- Pre-plan the route with the teen in a way that utilizes main roads.
- Make sure that the teen uses routes with controlled intersections (lights, stop signs) to reduce the risk of a sideways collision (which have the highest risk of fatality).
- Ensure that the teen will turn off (or place in the glove box) the cell phone, MP3 player, iPod, or other electronic device while driving. Distracted driving can even include programming a GPS while driving, so this should also be avoided.
- High Risk (8 to 13 points): With a score in this range, the risk level has been increased by at least one of the three variables that drive risk for young drivers. For this reason, the parent and teen should assess whether any changes can be made to the driving plan to reduce the risk level. Beyond this, the following strategies can be used to further mitigate risk:
- Have the teen check in with a parent on a “point-to-point” basis, that is, at every destination along the way. Of course, this should be done while the teen is not driving the vehicle. This strategy helps ensure honesty by the teen about the travel plans and destination. It also enables the parent to gain insight or share information that might impact the rest of the plans (e.g., traffic issues, weather conditions, status observed at destinations along the way).
- Require teens to confirm their location/destination with a photo. Again, this helps reinforce honesty in the process as some teens have been known to claim that they are going to one location while heading to another. A photo helps validate things.
- The parent and teen should manage the miles together. This means coming to agreement on the number of driving miles involved in the plan. The parent can then check the odometer after the teen returns to verify that the miles driven is in-line with expectations.
- The parent and teen should reach an agreement upon the overall itinerary, route, and timeline of the travel plans. That is, by knowing up-front the expected travel time to the destination(s), the parent and teen should have a mutual understanding of where the teen will be when, and the check-ins should coincide with this planning. This strategy helps bring focus and attention to the task of driving for a teen.
- Severe Risk (14+ points): With a score in this range, the risk level mandates a more serious discussion on ways to reduce risk. The following strategies should be on the table:
- The parent and teen should safety map the route, going over the planned trip and the safest route. Ideally, the teen should leave with a map (e.g., from Google or Mapquest) and written directions, avoiding known hazards along the way, with no need to rely on a GPS.
- The plan should limit the number of teen passengers. One of the variables that may have contributed to a higher Risk Score involves the number of other teen passengers, a known factor to drive distracted driving. A parent can simply require the teen to reduce the number of passengers, possibly coordinating with other parent(s) to help resolve logistics for the group.
- With teen drivers, parents should know and have met any teen who plans to be a passenger in their teen’s car. This enables parents to act as gatekeepers in preventing as passengers other teens deemed to be irresponsible or untrustworthy. This process also removes potential passenger anonymity, which can be a license to encourage more risky behavior.
- The plan should limit the number of destinations. This helps minimize the inherent distractions that can be involved in each destination while also reducing the amount of miles driven.
- Related to the above, if multiple passengers are involved, the parent and teen should look to reduce the number of passenger pick-ups. This can be done by creating a single pick-up or drop-off location for passengers. The act of picking up (or dropping off) a passenger can be distracting and can take attention away from the task of responsible driving, so reducing these events helps reduce risk.
- The parent and teen should establish a travel time window. This means discussing in-advance when the teen plans to be on the road and arrive at the destination. The act of establishing a travel time window helps reinforce responsible behavior by encouraging the teen driver to stay on course, avoiding unplanned and distracting detours along the way.
We hope that the Risk Disk proves to be a useful tool for parents and their teens to highlight the risk factors involved in teen driving and to develop strategies that help reduce these risks. Please check here
for any upcoming presentations on the Risk Disk/Smart Six Safety program. If you do not see an upcoming presentation listed in your area, please feel free to send us an email at email@example.com
to see if we can schedule a free session at your school or community event.