National Teen Drivers Safety Week: what parents can do

West Virginia

Image of a driver’s point of view. (Courtesy Photo: Getty Images)

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two West Virginia organizations have teamed up to emphasize the parents’ role in keeping teenage drivers safe.

This week, Oct. 17 through 23, is National Teen Drivers Safety Week. This year, the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to give parents the tools they need to talk with teens about safe driving habits.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens (15-18 years old) in the United States. The NHTSA reported that in 2019, 2,042 people who were passengers of a teen driver, were killed in crashes. Of those deaths, 628 deaths were the teen driver. An estimated 92,000 teen passenger vehicle drivers were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the same year, and an estimated 264,000 people were injured in crashes involving a teen driver, accounting for almost 10% of all those injured that year.

By sharing their driving experience, parents can help teen drivers stay safe on the road. NHTSA gives parents tips on how to talk about safe driving behaviors with their teens along with how to address the most dangerous driving behaviors for teen drivers:

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  • alcohol and other drug use
  • lack of seat belt use
  • distracted driving
  • speeding
  • driving with passengers.

“We hope parents will start the conversation about safe driving during National Teen Driver Safety Week then keep the conversations going — every day throughout the year — to help keep their teens safer behind the wheel,” said GHSP Teen Driver Safety Coordinator, Heather Kessel.

Impaired Driving: 16% of teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2019 had alcohol in their system. Alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely: marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings by slowing their reaction time. The NHTSA recommends reminding teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance — including illicit or prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medication — can have deadly consequences.

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Distracted Driving: Texting while driving is outlawed in 47 states, including West Virginia. Remind teens that even if they are stopped at a red light or in traffic, texting, talking and using any social media apps while driving is unacceptable and illegal. Distracted driving isn’t limited to cell phone use; other passengers, audio and climate controls in the vehicle, eating or drinking while driving are all dangerous distractions for teen drivers. In 2019, among teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes, 10% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Headphones should not be worn while driving because drivers need to be able to hear another vehicle’s horn or the siren from an emergency vehicle.

Passengers: Research shows that having more passengers in a vehicle drastically increases the risk of a fatal crash, and the likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when multiple passengers are in the car. During the first year a teen has their license in West Virginia, the number of non-family passengers they are allowed to have is limited — no passengers under 20 in the first six months and only one in the second six months. Teens and parents need to understand the rules and any other restrictions outlined in West Virginia’s graduated driver licensing. By knowing and enforcing the laws, the teen driver’s safety and that of others on the road are improved.

Seat Belt Safety: More than half (55%) of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died in crashes in 2019 were not wearing a seat belt. Teen drivers and passengers are more likely to die in a crash if they are unbuckled (nine out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled). According to the NHTSA, of the best way to promote seat belt safety for teens is rewarding them with driving privileges when they buckle up every trip and require their passengers to do the same.

Speed Limits: In 2019, 27% of all teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. Males were more likely to be involved in fatal speeding-related crashes than females. Remind teens to always drive within the speed limit. In a recent ranking of states’ drivers, speeding was the lowest score for West Virginians.

You can learn more about National Teen Driver Safety here and the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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