Teen Driving Week – Drive Like A Friend

By Tanya Davis | Published Thursday, October 21, 2010

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What’s the greatest threat to today’s youth? Look no further than your driveway for the answer.

Car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among teens, killing 4,054 teenagers ages 13 to 19 in 2008. The combination of inexperience and distractions can be deadly.

Distractions are not limited to cell phones; studies have confirmed a connection between teen drivers transporting peer passengers and an increased risk of fatal crashes. In fact, adding just one teen passenger doubles the fatal crash risk for a teen driver.

Although the risk of a crash increases with each additional passenger, recent research shows that few teens recognize the impact passengers have on driver safety. In a recent survey of high school students, only 10 percent of teens knew that carrying teen or adolescent passengers increased crash risks.

That’s why this year’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 17-23, is addressing the risk of teens driving teens. The Ride Like A Friend campaign is being rolled out in schools nationwide to encourage passenger behaviors that can reduce the crash risk for teens.

“The Ride Like A Friend. Drive Like You Care” program was developed with the help of teens and focuses on increasing teens’ awareness of how passengers can be helpful and not harmful in the car and what drivers can do to make this happen.

Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County reminds teens that they can help friends who are driving by keeping distractions to a minimum and using positive peer pressure to persuade each other to buckle up. Although seat belts have proven effective in reducing deaths and injuries from motor vehicle crashes, teens have the lowest seat belt use of any age group.

In Texas from 2003 to 2008, 52 percent of teens killed in car crashes were not buckled up.

Most teen passengers who die on the road are riding with teen drivers. Teens should not ride with peers for at least the first six months of independent driving.

Texas is fortunate to have a Graduated Driver’s License law. After the initial phase of a learner’s permit, teen drivers must complete six months with a provisional license that restricts drivers to no more than one passenger in the vehicle under the age of 21 who is not a family member. During this time, the use of a cell phone is also prohibited.

It also restricts driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless for employment, school-related activity or a medical emergency. Driving at night increases the risk to teen drivers. The fatal crash rate of 16-year-olds is nearly twice as high at night.

Parents are encouraged to help implement the “Ride Like A Friend. Drive Like You Care” program at their school.

More information can be found at www.ridelikeafriend.com. For additional resources to help parents raise safe teen drivers, visit http://www.distraction.gov/campaign-tools/parents/.

We can all encourage teens to take on a sense of empowerment and responsibility while riding in a vehicle, whether as a driver or passenger.

Remind teens to Ride Like A Friend. Drive Like You Care.

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