Michelin’s Teen Driving Safety Survey Results are Frightening

Posted by

It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, and to raise awareness, tire manufacturer Michelin surveyed teens as part of a #SharingSafety campaign it’s running with news anchor Katie Couric. The results are pretty scary when you consider that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America.

In a press release, Michelin provided some statistics about how teens are getting into accidents, how they’re learning to drive, and where their driving lessons are coming from:

  • The majority of drivers are confident in their own driving abilities (81 percent rank themselves highly), but 66 percent have felt unsafe when someone else was at the wheel.

By our math, that means 15 percent of drivers are wildly overconfident in their abilities.

  • 3 in 4 (73 percent) have witnessed an accident or experienced a “close call” firsthand (76 percent), and 62 percent have been in an accident that someone else caused.

Let that sink in for a minute: Sixty-two percent of drivers have been involved in an accident caused by someone else. All that kept them from being a statistic in this year’s teen traffic fatalities is safety equipment and good fortune.

  • 69 percent see other motorists ignoring safe-driving practices daily.
  • Not surprisingly, 75 percent of drivers admit to “offering advice from the other seat.
  • The best sources of advice are still the tried-and-true: dad (selected by 52 percent), mom (32 percent) and driver’s education instructors (27 percent).

This one should give every parent pause, because frankly, most adults aren’t that great at driving either, based on statistics.

If you got your license some time around 1985, for example, you were driving a full decade before anti-lock brakes became prevalent, and two decades before stability control, forward collision warnings and even things like backup cameras came into fashion.

Kids who take driver’s ed. aren’t getting any kind of real-world driving instruction. Students are taught the requirements to pass the driving test, not to evade a stopped car in their lane at 60 miles an hour, not to apply full braking pressure to stop from full speed, or how to countersteer to counteract a skid.

In our research for our upcoming BestRide Ultimate Guide to Winter Driving (publishing the first week in November) we learned that most driving schools in New England — where it snows approximately 11 months of the year — cancel their driving classes if school is canceled for winter weather.

How are we expecting teens to drive safely in bad weather when we don’t even teach rudimentary driving skills in winter weather?

  • The driving advice people receive most frequently includes signaling before changing lanes (75 percent) and staying in the right lane unless you’re passing (68 percent).

That’s fine, but it’s hardly going to save a life on the highway. If you’re going to share advice with your teens, start with these six pieces of advice:

  • If the car they’re driving has antilock brakes, apply full brake pressure, DO NOT pump the brakes.
  • Antilock brakes’ biggest benefit is not stopping you faster, but allowing you to maintain steering control under maximum braking. Don’t just hammer the brakes and continue traveling in a straight line. Steer around the obstacle.
  • Always look where you want to go. Target fixation is a real issue, especially with new drivers. It’s what seems to draw you into the oncoming lane when a car with bright headlights is coming in the other direction. Staring at the telephone pole you’re about to crash into isn’t helping.
  • Minimize distractions. We’re fixated on mobile phones now, but as our friends at MIT and AAA have told us, all distractions are an issue: tuning the radio, having a heated conversation, resetting the trip odometer, all of it. Focus on the task at hand.
  • Use extra caution on the weekends. The IIHS notes that 53 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths among teenagers in 2012 occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
  • Drive alone. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the risk of 16- or 17-year old drivers being killed in a crash increases exponentially with each additional teenage passenger in the vehicle. The risk increases 44 percent with one passenger; doubles with two passengers, and quadruples with three or more passengers.

We’ll add those to the #SharingSafety hashtag this week.

“We want to draw people into a national conversation about road safety during National Teen Driver Safety Week,” said Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America. “Sharing even simple tips like how to maintain tires could mean the difference between life or death.”

If your new driver is ready for their own car, we’ve assembled a list of five used cars for teens that provide better than average safety results, plus won’t break the bank.

Michelin provided the following infographic with more data from their study. Talk with your kids about it, use the #SharingSafety hashtag on Twitter, and consider enrolling your kids in a driving class that goes beyond the rudiments in traditional driver’s ed.

Infographic Michelin

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at