Perfect time to talk to teen drivers

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There are plenty of hallmark, coming of age moments in a teenager’s life. Perhaps the one that provides a teenager with the most noticeable feeling of freedom and independence is getting a driver’s license.

If that young driver is fortunate to have a car to go along with that driver’s license, he or she no longer is at the mercy of parents, family members or friends for a ride to school, ball practice or an after-school activity. The days of walking, taking public transportation or riding a bus or a bicycle are gone.

With the freedom of a driver’s license also comes an extremely heavy responsibility. When that teen driver gets behind the wheel, he or she has the duty to ensure their safety -- and the safety of everyone they encounter on the roads, in parking lots and wherever else the car takes them.

National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 17-23), sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is the perfect time to remind your teen driver of the responsibility that comes with driving a car. This year’s campaign “Your teen is in the driver’s seat but you are in control” encourages parents to continue talking about safe driving and provides advice on how to set the rules before their teens get behind the wheel.

Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for teens 15 to 18 years old, according to the NHTSA. In 2019, 628 teen drivers died in crashes, and 2,042 teen drivers were involved in crashes where someone died.

The NHTSA provided these talking points, aptly titled “The Rules of the Road,” to share with your teen driver:

• Wear seat belts: The car doesn’t move until everyone is buckled up -- front seat and back, on every trip, every time. Almost half of the passengers killed in cars driven by teen drivers in recent years weren’t buckled up in 2019.

• No drinking and no drugs: Emphasize the fact that it’s illegal to drink before you’re 21 -- and that driving drunk or high is unacceptable at any age. In 2019, 16% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.

• No distractions: Driving is the first and only task when behind the wheel. That means no phones or texting while driving, and not doing anything else -- like eating, drinking or fixing hair and makeup -- when you should fully focus on driving. About 10% of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in recent years were distracted at the time of the crash. Teens should activate the “do not disturb” feature on their phones to eliminate the distractions notifications cause.

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