Teen Driver Safety



Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that teen drivers are almost three times more likely to be killed in motor-vehicle crashes than those who are 20 or older. And the younger the person behind the wheel, the worse the numbers look: Drivers aged 16-17 have a fatal crash rate that’s nearly twice as high as those that are between 18 and 19. Moreover, for the first time since the IIHS began posting data about teen driving deaths in 2005, its most recently published annual statistics show an increase in fatalities. The goal of National Teen Driver Safety Week – which runs through October 22 – is to help get those trends moving in the other direction.

Teen Drivers and Smartphones: A Dumb Combination

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks the number of fatal crashes with its Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The most recent data covers 2014, and according to this data, more than 2,600 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes that year.

TeenDriverSource.org reports that another 243,000 were injured enough to be treated at hospitals. At the same time, it’s just three “critical errors” that lead to 75 percent of all serious teen driving crashes: drivers failing to adequately scan their surroundings, going too fast for the road conditions, and getting distracted.

Of course, there’s one distraction that does seem to be worse than others, and that’s the driver’s smartphone. Consider: Just this month, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute blogged results from a three-year study in which sensors and cameras had been installed in teen’s cars, to look at how they drive in real-world situations. What they found was that roughly one third of the teen drivers who crashed were actively using their phones at the time. About half of those drivers were texting. Engineer and study co-author James N. Megariotis wrote that “teens not only crash more frequently than adults, but also experience significantly more severe crashes at much higher speeds.”

Teens and Impaired Driving

Although teens generally don’t drink and drive as often as adults, TeenDriverSource.org says those that do make up some 27 percent of the annual crash deaths for individuals aged 16 to 20. Also, while 90 percent of teens surveyed said they “rarely or never” drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, 50 percent said they saw other teens drive while drinking, and 41 percent reported seeing other teens drive after smoking marijuana.

A more significant issue for teen drivers may be impairments caused by lack of sleep, especially since being awake 18 straight hours can have the same effect on them as a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08.

Yet Stanford University experts say that teen sleep deprivation has reached “epidemic” levels in this country, and one national poll noted that 87 percent of U.S. high school students receive “far less” than the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Indeed, TeenDriverSource.org also advises that young drivers need more than 9 hours of sleep each night for optimum driving alertness during the day. Teens who get less than 8 hours are one-third more likely to get into a car crash.

Teen Drivers and Peer Pressure

Having additional teen passengers in the car then adds to the risk of a crash. Thus, when a teen driver has two or more teen friends in the vehicle, a fatal crash is three times more likely to occur. There are differences between female and male teens, too. The statistics from TeenDriverSource.org show that both were distracted before crashing at approximately similar rates. But girls were four times more likely to be distracted with passengers in the vehicle than if they were driving alone. Boys were six times more likely to make an illegal driving maneuver with friends in the car, and twice as likely to have “acted aggressively.”

What You Can Do

TeenDriverSource.org provides resources for adults as well as teens, with information tailored toward educators, researchers, policymakers and parents and guardians. For example, if you have teen drivers of your own, provide them with ongoing support to develop good habits.

Setting ground rules and making sure they’re followed is particularly effective, based on a recent National Young Driver Survey. In that report, teens with involved, “authoritative” parents were 70 percent less likely to drink and drive, 50 percent less likely to speed, 30 percent less likely to use a phone while driving and twice as likely to wear their seatbelts. But stay positive, as trying to scare teen drivers into better behavior “rarely works,” and they may end up either feeling overwhelmed or tuning you out entirely.

What the Automakers Are Doing

It’s also worth pointing out that a growing number of automakers are launching new technologies specifically engineered with teen driver safety in mind. These systems already are available from the likes of FordChevrolet and Hyundai, and they offer a variety of strategies to encourage safer driving, including the ability to limit the vehicle’s top speed and audio volume. Others can alert owners with text messages if the vehicle leaves a certain geographical area, or prevent key safety features from being deactivated. In-car alerts also can be set to remind drivers to use their seatbelts and to provide a longer advanced warning before running out of fuel.

Shopping for a used car? Start your search with CARFAX Used Car Listings, where every car comes with a free CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

When Should I Change my Oil?

An engine oil change is a relatively simple service. It’s widely touted as the single most important part of your car’s maintenance schedule.

There is a good reason for this. Nothing will shorten engine life faster than missed oil changes.

But how can you tell when you should change your oil?  

Advances in technology and increased consumer awareness have created some confusion to how often this needs to happen.

Visit our Car Maintenance Forum and discuss with others

The Easy Answer

For most of us, all we need to do is follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for oil change intervals. Their guidelines are designed to keep your car in good running condition for a long time.

Where can you find your car’s service schedule for oil changes and other recommended maintenance?

You can check the owner’s manual that hopefully you have kept in a handy place like your car’s glove box. You might also visit the manufacturer’s website and do a search to download it.

Quick lube shops have their own recommendations. One thing to remember is that these shops are speaking to a wide audience, addressing cars of every age, every mileage, and some with different needs.

While there is no harm done by too frequent oil changes, if your car doesn’t need them, that money could be better spent on other maintenance needs.

Don’t Put It Off

Service shops can change your oil fast. Image by By David Defoe.Service shops can change your oil fast. Image by By David Defoe.

If you have ever put off a trip to the grocery store or waited a couple of weeks longer between haircuts, don’t do that with oil changes.

Your oil’s primary function is to cut friction.

Over time, oil accumulates contaminants and loses viscosity (the ability to flow into every nook and cranny). Contaminants cause friction as parts rub together. Friction wears out those parts faster.

The damage caused by these conditions is largely irreversible without an engine overhaul or replacement.

Waiting for the low oil light to come on can be the worst thing you can do to your engine.

You shouldn’t see that light unless your oil level is low. So you don’t want to see it. Whatever amount of oil you do have left almost certainly has lost its ability to function properly.

The good news is that your service schedule is written to have this service done long before disaster is on the horizon.

Cars are Smarter Now

For a very long time the gold standard for oil changes was 3,000 to 3,500 miles.

There are still many adherents to this philosophy, but it may not be necessary;

Advances in engineering to both engine mechanical parts and especially to oil itself have extended the oil life cycle by more than double the old number.

Synthetic motor oil is recommended for some models. Image by Chris YarzabSynthetic motor oil is recommended for some models. Image by Chris Yarzab

Do you use synthetic oil? 

Automakers recommend it for some models. It cost a little more than regular oil, but it has had the biggest impact on oil life.

The life cycle for synthetics is typically 7,000 to 10,000 miles, a big change from conventional oil.

The type of driving we do also affects our oil change needs;

Frequent cold starts, extreme heat, and towing, are all examples of types of driving that can shorten our oil life.

Also, repeated short trips (under 4 miles) is one of the most overlooked enemies of oil life.

Any of these driving conditions can create the need to shorten your service interval by 25-40% depending on the severity.

oil change indicator percentageOil change indicator in a Honda Civic.

If your car is equipped with a maintenance reminder on the dash, some of the guesswork is eliminated for you.

Can you trust it?

For the most part, yes.

In the early days of automobiles the only way we had to track our vehicle’s aging was the odometer. But miles traveled is not always a good indicator of actual use for many urban environments.

[READ: Odometer Rollback Fraud – How to Protect Yourself]

With the inclusion of computers in the modern automobile we now have a way for the car to track time AND mileage. Time is important to this discussion because running time affects oil life.

But not all maintenance indicators work the same way:

Some use an electronic sensor to measure the oil quality, while others use an algorithm based on driving metrics to determine life expectancy.

If your car is not equipped with maintenance light or gauge, the owner’s manual should still be your guide.

Don’t Buy Cheap Oil

All of these scenarios assume you are using the factory-recommended lubricant.

If you have opted for something inferior you may be adversely affecting the recommendation.

It’s not worth a few dollars to shortcut on the oil.

Track Your Maintenance

Because time is important as well as mileage, it’s nice to try and plan your service visits.

The little sticker in the corner of the windshield was a small, important innovation to help us plan. Before that, many people kept a paper record in their glove box as well.

But now, with many of us carrying smart phones and having home computers, it’s gotten even easier..

Car Maintenance App

MyCarfax is a website – and a free smart phone app – that will track all of your car’s maintenance needs, making it even easier to keep track of, and plan, your next service.

Customer Appreciation Event - 9/17/16

Text Us!