Teen Driver Safety Week focuses on encouraging safe behaviors on the road

DETROIT – Even after the driver’s education, the practice runs and the road test, watching a child get behind the wheel – or being driven by another teen– can be a harrowing moment in a parent’s life.

And for good reason. Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading killer of teens ages 13-19, claiming nearly 2,500 young lives in 2012.

Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs through Saturday, focuses on how parents can talk to their teens about engaging in safe practices while driving – and as a passenger. Among teen crash fatalities each year, about 47 percent are teen drivers and 54 percent are teen passengers.

“If a single disease claimed so many of our children, we would be frantically searching for a cure,” said Jeff Boyer, GM vice president, Global Vehicle Safety, during a vehicle safety conference at the company’s Milford, Mich. Proving Ground this week. “This issue has affected me personally, and the reality is that we as parents can make a huge impact on making sure our kids make the right decisions on the road.”

In June, Safe Kids Worldwide released a study of 1,000 teens, ages 13-19, that revealed one in four do not use a safety belt on every ride. The reasons included forgetfulness or lack of habit (34 percent); the distance to destination was short (16 percent) or the seat belt was uncomfortable (11 percent). About half of teens killed in crashes in 2012 were not wearing a seat belt, which reduces the risk of death to front seat occupants by 45 percent.

The study was funded in part by a $2 million grant from the General Motors Foundation.

One of the report’s more disturbing findings, was that 49 percent of teens reported feeling unsafe while riding with another teen driver and 31 percent felt unsafe while riding with a parent. While four in 10 teens said they asked the driver to stop during a potentially dangerous situation, almost the said nothing.

In addition, 39 percent of teens say they have ridden with a teen driver who was texting, and 95 percent said they think other teens have done so as well.

“These findings show why it’s so important to talk to kids about traffic safety early and often, before they reach driving age,” said Boyer. “It also demonstrates why conversations should extend to the parents of kids’ peer groups because both are key to keeping kids safe.”

In fact, teens with involved parents are twice as likely to use their seat belt, 70 percent are less likely to drink and drive, half are less as likely to speed, 30 percent are less likely to use a cell phone while driving and significantly less likely to drive with multiple passengers, according to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia studies.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these “Five to Drive” rules of the road:

  • No cell phones
  • No extra passengers
  • No speeding
  • No alcohol
  • Always buckle up.

General Motors sponsors programs to help keep teens safe behind the wheel and as passengers:

Countdown 2 Drive: With Safe Kids Worldwide, this program helps families build trust around riding in a vehicle – with the objective of turning safe passengers into safe drivers. It helps families build passenger agreements to bridge the gap, setting a tone of mutual respect as today’s younger teens move closer to becoming tomorrow’s drivers.

Teen Driving Safety Leadership Award: The GM Foundation sponsors this award in partnership with the National Safety Council. Each year, the award recognizes the efforts of individuals and organizations across the nation who make measurable progress to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths to teen drivers.

Safe Kids Worldwide

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