With prom season upon us and graduations coming right up, the St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program is joining with the New York Partnership for Teen Driving Safety in the statewide campaign “Speak Early-Speak Often about Teen Driving Safety.”
The goal is to educate and empower parents to act to keep their teens as safe as possible while driving.
Car crashes are the leading cause of deaths and non-intentional injuries for teens in New York State. On average, eight 16- and 17-year-old teen drivers are treated in New York State hospitals for motor vehicle crash injuries each day. Newly licensed teens are at the highest risk of a crash during the first year of driving. Driving inexperience, speeding and distracted driving are the leading causes for teen driver crashes, according to Mary Davison at the St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program.
During prom and graduation season, issues with drinking and driving become a concern for parents. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicate that an average of 48 teens are killed and 5,202 are injured in car crashes during a typical prom weekend. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even small amounts of alcohol raise the teen crash risk substantially.
The good news for parents is that most motor vehicle crashes involving teens are preventable. Research studies have found that parental involvement is also a key factor in protecting teen drivers. According to a study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, parents who set rules and monitor their teens' driving behavior in a supportive way can lower their teens' crash risk by half. Teens with involved parents are also twice as likely to wear seat belts, 70 percent less likely to drink and drive, half as likely to speed, 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving.
Safety organizations urge parents to take the following steps to foster safer young drivers:
• Begin talking about the importance of safe driving and buckling up before your teen can drive.
• Be a good driving role model. Drive safely and following the rules of the road. Teens learn about driving by watching the way you drive.
• Know and speak with your teens about the New York State Graduated Driver’s Licensing Laws (NYS GDL) and other laws for drivers. Make sure their teens comply with the GDL night driving and passenger restrictions. Use the NYS GDL to set driving rules and limits for teen drivers. For GDL information, go to www.dmv.ny.gov/youngerdriver/.
• Use a parent/teen driving agreement to set and enforce driving rules during the first year of unsupervised driving. Gradually introduce new driving privileges as your teen proves to be a responsible driver. Parent/teen agreements are included in the parent information packets given out at the DMV when the teen signs up for a driver permit. Sample agreements can also be found on some New York State agency web sites, including www.health.ny.gov, www.dmv.ny.gov/youngerdriver/ or via some car insurance companies.
• If you are hosting an after-prom party, make it an alcohol-free celebration. Know who is attending, and plan to be present for the entire time. Lock up alcohol, prescriptions, and firearms, and don’t allow party crashers. If your teen will be attending a party, check with the host to make sure that it will be a safe celebration.
Parents and their teen drivers are also urged to complete the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s Parent’s Guide to Teen Driving at www.nydmv.ny.gov/youngerdriver/.
For more information about talking to your teen about safety, contact Mary Davison at the St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program by calling 379-2306 or via e-mail at email@example.com.