Make sure your teen is safe behind the wheel - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Make sure your teen is safe behind the wheel

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Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds in the United States with more than 5,000 teens killed in passenger vehicle crashes each year. According to the National Safety Council, half of all teens will be involved in a crash before graduating from high school.

What do these statistics mean? Parents need to make sure their teens are equipped with the proper skills to safely navigate the roadway and the confidence to stand up to their peers in a dangerous driving situation. 

Even if you think your teens aren't listening, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say parents have the biggest influence on their teen drivers. 

The most risky behaviors among teens behind the wheel include alcohol use, texting, failure to wear seat belts, speeding and riding with extra teen passengers. These are all part of the NHTSA's "5 to Drvie" campaign and parents are urged to have candid conversations with their teens about all of these dangerous behaviors.

1.      No alcohol – The minimum legal drinking age in every state is 21. However, in 2013, among 15- to 20-year-old drivers killed in crashes, 29 percent had been drinking.

2.      No cell phone use or texting while driving – Texting or dialing while driving is more than just risky – it’s deadly. At 55 mph, the average text takes your eyes off the road long enough to cover a football field. In 2013, among drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 11 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the highest percentage of drivers distracted by phone use. In 2013, 318 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted teen driver.

3.      No driving or riding without a seat belt – In 2013, more than half (55%) of all 15- to 20-year-old occupants of passenger vehicles killed in crashes were unrestrained.

4.      No speeding – In 2013, speeding was a factor in 42 percent of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers.

5.      No extra passengers – NHTSA data shows that a teenage driver is 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger and three times more likely with multiple teenage passengers

Consider having your teen sign a "New Driver Deal," which is basically a written, signed agreement with clear expectations and restrictions when they are behind the wheel or riding as a passenger with another teen. You can either create your own or use this example to print and discuss: http://tinyurl.com/hl4o5ac  

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