Teenagers and seatbelts
By MOTOsafety / Posted May 1, 2016

Parents Have A Significant Impact on Seat Belt Safety

The statistics are against teen drivers when it comes to seat belt safety. According to the CDC, teenagers are the most likely age group to get in an accident, but the least likely to wear a seat belt while driving. Although seat belts can cut injury and death rates in half, only 55% of teens report that they wear one.

Teen Driver Source reports several reasons that teens give for not buckling up:

  • The belts are uncomfortable.
  • The trip was short.
  • They forgot.
  • They don’t understand the effect seat belts can have in a crash.
  • Seat belts aren’t “cool.”

These facts can be very concerning to parents. However, the good news is that parents have influence on the decisions their teens make about seat belt safety.

The Facts About Parental Influence on Teen Drivers

Two studies show that teen safety while driving is strongly linked to communication with parents. The researchers found that teens with involved parents were twice as likely to wear a seat belt, among other safe driving habits.

“Once they’re behind the wheel, teens have ultimate responsibility for their behavior,” says Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, co-author of one of the studies. “But kids who said their parents set rules in a supportive way were half as likely to crash compared with teens who saw their parents as less involved.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association reports parental participation as one of the seven elements that effective teen seat belt programs had in common:

  1. Laws and their enforcement
  2. Peer-to-peer efforts
  3. Parental participation
  4. Community involvement
  5. Incorporation of social media
  6. Provision of incentives
  7. Resources that would be useful to diverse audiences
convince a teenager to wear a seatbelt

The full report, “Getting it to Click: Connecting Teens and Seatbelt Use” explains, “Children learn much of what they know and practice about driving long before they take their state’s driver test. From the time they are very small, children observe driving behavior – the good and the bad – of their parents and other adults.”

What Parents Can Do to Encourage Seat Belt Use

There are many things parents can do to actively encourage seat belt use. First, it is important to always wear your seat belt, no matter how short the trip. Never squeeze more passengers into your car than you can accommodate with safe seating. The research is clear that your kids pay attention to your behavior, and it has an effect on their own safety decisions.

It is also important to talk with your teen specifically about seat belt safety. The MOTOsafety Driving Course provides information about setting expectations for safety with your teen, along with a driving pledge that includes a promise to always wear a seat belt (and always require passengers to wear seat belts). Make sure your teen knows that they are responsible for the passengers in their car, and depending on the state, they could be fined if a passenger does not buckle up.

Finally, educate your teen about seat belt safety. Know your state laws. Some states have primary seat belt laws that allow law enforcement to conduct a traffic stop if they see that a driver or passenger is not wearing a seat belt. Others have secondary seat belt laws that only allow citations regarding seat belt use during a traffic stop for another offense. AAA offers a resource for laws by state.

Your involvement makes a difference, so take the time to talk with your teen. Consult these other resources to educate yourself and your teen about seatbelt safety:

Seat Belts: Get the Facts (CDC)

Driving without a Seat Belt Statistics

Getting It To Click! Connecting Teens and Seat Belt Use

Seat Belt Use: General Statistics

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