Teen Drivers and Motor Vehicle Safety

Edited by Admin
Teen Drivers and Motor Vehicle Safety

Teen Drivers and Motor Vehicle Safety


Young Canadians make up 13% of drivers on our roads but are responsible for 20% of motor vehicle accident injuries and deaths. In fact, road crashes are the leading cause of death for drivers aged 15 to 24, and the main cause of traumatic injury to Canadian youths aged 15 to 19. If you have a teen in your family learning to drive, or with a newly-minted driver’s license, what can you do to help keep them safe? Here are some actions to consider:


Delay the process. Teens in Canada can obtain a driver’s license at either 15 or 16 years of age. The Centers for Disease Control in the US reports that the crash risk is highest during the first year that drivers are licensed. While some of these accidents may be due to inexperience, experts also believe that they may also be related to the ongoing development of the frontal lobe of the brain during adolescence. As a parent, if you feel your teen is not mature enough to make good decisions, you can suggest that they wait to take the driver’s test. A few years can make a big difference to a young person’s ability to filter out distracting information and to better control their impulses.


Set a good example. Follow the rules of the road. Don’t speed; don’t drive after drinking; never drive aggressively, and don’t drive while distracted. Your children’s greatest role models are their parents, and they will pick up on your driving behaviours, both consciously and subconsciously.


Drugs and alcohol. Talk to your teens about drug and alcohol use. Remind them that it is illegal to drink while they are under legal drinking age, and that it is deadly to drink and drive. Their blood alcohol level while driving must always be at 0.00. Make them aware that use of drugs and alcohol can impact many areas of a young person’s life, putting them at greater risk for motor vehicle accidents, sexual violence, injury, unplanned pregnancy, legal problems, and interfering with brain development.


Know the law. In Ontario and other jurisdictions, new drivers have restrictions placed on their driving activity. For the first twelve months, your Ontario teen must obey the following restrictions:

  • Must have a blood alcohol level of zero at all times when driving.
  • Must not drive alone; a driver with a valid Class G (or higher) license and at least four years of driving experience must sit in the front passenger seat while you drive. (This person cannot have a blood alcohol level of greater than 0.05%.
  • Each person in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt.
  • Driving on 400-series highways with posted speed limits over 80 km/h is forbidden. Other high-speed roads such as the QEW, the Don Valley Parkway, the Gardiner Expressway, the E.C. Row Expressway, and the Conestoga Parkway are also out of bounds unless a driver instructor is accompanying the new driver.
  • No driving between midnight and 5 a.m.

Even after your teen has graduated to the next phase, some restrictions remain in place. Familiarize yourself with these restrictions and remind your teen that they risk having their license revoked if they don’t follow them.


Speed. Help to teach your teen driver to slow down and drive slower than the speed limit when circumstances warrant it. In rain or snow, it’s often necessary to reduce speed; sometimes novice drivers fail to recognize this. If you catch your teen speeding, emphasize the dangers of exceeding the posted speed limit, as well as the legal consequences of being caught doing so.


Limit passengers. Whenever a teen driver is carrying a passenger, the risk of a fatal crash doubles. With two or more passengers, the risk is five times greater than when the teen is driving alone. About a quarter of teen drivers involved in crashes say they were distracted by a passenger at the time of the accidents.


Limit weekend driving. More than half of fatal crashes involving teen drivers (53%) occurred on Friday or Saturday—times when teens are apt to be partying. Rather than allowing your teen to drive to a party, plan for them to be picked up or to use a ride service.


Limit cell phone use. Insist that teens put cell phones out of reach while driving and only use them when pulled off the road. US research shows that dialing a phone number increases a teen’s chance of crashing by a factor of six, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23! Teenagers are more distractible than adults and allowing them to drive with a cell phone nearby is a recipe for disaster.


Consequences. If your teen doesn’t abide by the limits you set, make sure that there are substantial consequences, such as removing access to the vehicle or taking away cell phone privileges.


Vehicle. Finally, hold off on buying your teen a car. A US study shows that teens are far more likely to speed and take chances when driving their own car than they are when operating the family sedan.