When your kid turns 16 and gets their driver’s permit (or turns 17 and gets their driver’s license) it’s an exciting time and a rite of passage. But for parents, it also ups the anxiety since driving can potentially be dangerous.

Alarmingly, the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates a 19% increase in motor vehicle crash deaths in New Jersey from 2020 to 2022 alone. Traffic crashes remain the No. 1 cause of preventable death for teens in the United States, and according to the latest available data, the number of traffic deaths for teens is up nearly 16%.

According to the latest data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of teen motor-vehicle occupant deaths increased for the first time in four years. NHTSA also estimates that the total number of deaths among teens ages 13 – 19, including pedestrian and bicycle incidents, in 2020 averaged more than seven deaths per day.

In 2020, the number of people dying in crashes involving at least one young driver was up 14.7% from 2019. Young driver fatalities account for only 37% of the overall fatalities associated with young driver crashes.

Driver inexperience is the root cause of most crashes. NSC believes parent involvement is the key, so DriveitHOME is a free resource created by and for parents, courtesy of NSC. Through DriveitHOME you can receive weekly pointers, sign the New Driver Deal to pledge safety on the road, and employer resources to spread the word about teen safe driving.

After identifying the risks their teens face, parents can also learn concepts and methods that will help their child become more experienced and safer behind the wheel. One such way is through Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL). One of the important components of GDL programs is a restriction on night driving. While only about 10% of trips driven by 16- and 17-year-olds occur from 9 – 11:59 pm, 17% of their fatal crashes occur at this time. Even more dramatically, while only 1% of teen trips occur from midnight to 5:59 a.m., 13% of their fatal crashes occur at this time.

Freehold resident Michele Lonseth’s son Matthew got his license in November and her older daughter Samantha has been driving for two years. Her younger daughter Ashley is currently taking driver’s ed in school. She said “everything crosses my mind” about dangers such as weather, deer, intoxicated drivers, distractions (like texting), night driving, speed racing and road conditions.

“What I’m worried about is other people,” she said. “People don’t know how to drive so it makes me nervous.”

To avoid accidents, Lonseth says she taught her kids how to drive in the rain and snow and to look in all directions when the car is in motion. She also had them take an extra lesson through a local driving school before going for their road test.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to keep your kids safe, read about what parents wish they’d know before their teen started driving.