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Traffic safety administration: Talk with teens to prevent crashes

Recent statistics regarding teens killed in motor vehicle accidents are behind the Department of Transportation's urging parents to communicate more about safety behind the wheel. Car accidents involving teens are a growing problem, largely due to distracted driving. In 2010, one out of every 10 drivers involved in a fatal crash was between the ages of 15 and 20.

While distracted driving isn't unique to teen drivers, they are at higher risk for fatal crashes as a result of not directing their full attention to the task at hand: driving. An administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains teen drivers are more likely to be in a car accident, especially a fatal one, largely due to their immaturity, inexperience behind the wheel, and high rate of risk-taking.

State governments have been proactive in their efforts to curb rates of crashes caused by teen drivers. They've done this by implementing graduated driver's license programs, implementing curfews, limiting the number of passengers a teen driver may have in the vehicle, and enforcing strict laws regarding cellphone use while driving. The NHTSA encourages parents to be good role models in their own driving habits, as well as to talk to their teens about safe driving.

One way to encourage safe driving is to establish a parent-teen driving contract, outlining what is and isn't OK, and noting the consequences of not abiding by the contract. Electronic devices, including cellphones, should be off-limits when a teen is driving. Parents should be aware of how many hours of supervised driving a teen is required to accumulate during the graduated driver's license process, and to insist their teen keep a log. Most of all, parents should communicate frequently with their teen.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Traffic safety officials offer guidelines for safe teen driving," Jerry Hirsch, Oct. 16, 2012

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