Kaylyn's Story: Urging Teens to Stay Safe Behind the Wheel

Plus safety tips for teen drivers

November 13, 2018

Kaylyn Barbour of Bethany, Okla., liked to run, dance, and create art. Like so many teens, Kaylyn was active, busy, and unconcerned about her own safety.

But in May of 2017, her life changed forever. 

Kaylyn was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the chest down. Her friend lost control of her car, and Kaylyn, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown through the passenger side window. With no seat belt to protect her, Kaylyn suffered irreparable harm from the impact of the crash. After a long recovery, Kaylyn is now sharing her story in hopes of educating teens about the importance of making smart, life-saving decisions behind the wheel.

"Every year more than 2,000  teen drivers are involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes," said Torine Creppy, president of Safe Kids Worldwide. "Time and again we hear stories like Kaylyn's about teens whose inexperience, when combined with unnecessary risk-taking -- like not wearing a seat belt -- result in tragedy."

See Kaylyn's story in this video, which she submitted for Safe Kids Worldwide's "Take It From a Teen" video challenge, sponsored by Chevrolet. Kaylyn's video was selected by a panel of judges from Safe Kids Worldwide, and she was awarded $1000.

Safety tips for teen drivers

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for American teens and are most often the result of inexperienced teen drivers taking risks like not buckling up, texting, driving with teen passengers, speeding, driving under the influence, or driving in the dark.

Safe Kids Worldwide recommends the following top driving safety tips for teen drivers:

1. Talk to your teens about safe driving practices. 

Remind teens to buckle up in every car, every time, follow traffic signals and laws and take extra time to scan for pedestrians when entering and exiting driveways and alleys.

2. Make a formal agreement with your teen -- and enforce it. 

A 2016 research report by Safe Kids Worldwide showed that formal parent-teen agreements regarding driving restrictions help reduce risky driving, traffic violations and crashes. Looking for how to word it and what to include? Here's a sample driving agreement for parents and their kids.

3. Be a good role model.

Kids are always watching, even when you think they're not. So set a good example when kids and teens are in the car. If you buckle up, they will buckle up; if you speed, they will likely speed.

4. Ensure your new teen driver gets experience.

Your teen driver should have at least 50 hours of experience under a variety of driving conditions before setting out on his or her own. Having more experience behind the wheel helps new drivers manage driving in the dark and driving with other teen passengers in the car -- situations that can increase the likelihood of crashes for young drivers.

5. Take action against distraction. 

Teach teen drivers to put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat, or out of sight, until they have arrived at their destination.

6. Be alert.

Drivers should always be alert, especially around neighborhoods and schools. Be on the lookout for bikers, walkers, or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly.

7. Watch out for pedestrians.

Always give pedestrians the right of way, make eye contact with them and look left, right and left again when making a turn to help spot any bikers, walkers, or runners who may not be immediately visible.

Want more safety tips? Visit

This story was originally featured in our monthly Macaroni Kid Teen newsletter. If you're parenting a teen or tween, make sure to check out Macaroni Kid Teen and subscribe to the free monthly newsletter!