CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to empower parents to discuss safe driving habits with their young drivers for National Teen Driver Safety Week.

According to a press release from the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT), that’s this week: Oct. 16 through Oct. 22.

“Teaching our young drivers about safe driving is vitally important to make sure they’re as safe as can be when traveling on our roads,” Gov. Jim Justice said.

The WVDOT said motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens between 15 and 18 years old in the United States. In 2020, 2,276 teens between those ages were killed in crashes involving a teen passenger vehicle driver. Of these deaths, 748 were the teen driver themselves. That same year, there were 24 drivers younger than 20 killed in crashes. These statistics were all reported in West Virginia.

Any day of this week would make the perfect opportunity to talk with your teens about safe driving habits. It is best to make sure that your teen driver knows the Rules of the Road before handing over the keys. Ultimately, parents are the ones in control.

The NHTSA shared some tips on how parents or guardians can talk to their teens about safer driving. Here are a few:

  • Impaired Driving: All teenagers are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol. Nationally, 19% of teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2020 had alcohol in their system. However, this isn’t the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely: marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Remind teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance can have deadly consequences.
  • Seat Belt Safety: Wearing a seat belt is one way teens can stay safer in a vehicle. More than half (52%) of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died in crashes in 2020 were unbuckled. Encourage teens to buckle themselves, as well as confirm that everyone else is also buckled up.
  • Distracted Driving: Cell phone use while driving is more than just risky — it can be deadly. Texting while driving is illegal in West Virginia. Be sure to remind teens about the dangers of using a phone while driving and clarify that any phone use at all is unacceptable. Even if they are stopped at a light, it is still unacceptable and illegal.
  • Speed Limits: Speeding is an issue for all drivers, especially for teens who are less experienced. Almost one-third (31%) of all teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash in 2020.
  • Passengers: Passengers in a teen’s vehicle can lead to disastrous consequences. Research shows the risk of a fatal crash dramatically increases in direct relation to the number of passengers in a vehicle. The likelihood that a teen driver will engage in risky behavior triples when multiple passengers are in the same vehicle. West Virginia’s Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) law limits passengers in vehicles driven by teen drivers depending on the GDL level.

Those interested in learning more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program can visit highwaysafety.wv.gov or call 304-926-2509.