National Teen Driver Safety Week underway
DES MOINES – Today’s youth are busier and more engaged than ever. Unfortunately, this also means they have more things to distract them, especially while they are driving. Iowa’s young drivers travel many miles over local, state and interstate highways. Many of these miles are before and after school, as well as late at night after work or sporting events, in all kinds of weather.
Oct. 16-22 is dedicated to raising awareness and seeking solutions to unnecessary teen deaths on the road. National Teen Driver Safety Week was established by Congress in 2007 and is held annually on the third week of each October, its goal is to focus the country’s attention on this serious issue. In Iowa, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau is asking law enforcement, parents, educators and other influencers to be vigilant in helping keep our youth safe through the awareness, experience and education of teen drivers.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 14-through 18-year olds in the U.S. In fact, in 2014, there were 2,614 teen passenger vehicle drivers (ages 15-19) involved in fatal crashes and an estimated 130,000 were injured. Older teen drivers (ages 18-20) are twice as likely as young teen drivers (ages 15-17) to be involved in fatal crashes between midnight and 6 a.m. Yet, a recent survey shows that only 25 percent of parents have had a serious talk with their kids about the key components of driving. Parents need to take the time to talk with their kids about the many dangers of driving even as their teen gets older and gains more driving experience. Those dangers include alcohol, not wearing seat belts, texting, speeding, and extra passengers.
Research indicates which behaviors contribute to teen-related crashes. Inexperience and immaturity combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving, drowsy driving; nighttime driving and other drug use aggravate this problem.
Perhaps the most significant cause of teen crashes is multiple nonrelated teen passengers. This situation causes a high degree of distractions with minimal concentration on the road ahead. Often times this leads to lane departure resulting in serious or fatal crashes.
Texting and driving continues to be a national epidemic, and teens are some of the worst offenders. Iowa’s electronic device law prohibits all drivers from texting while driving and also prohibits drivers under 18 from using any electronic device while driving that was not from the vehicle’s manufacturer.
Parents, teachers, mentors and adult influencers are encouraged to help keep teen drivers safe by setting a positive example while driving. Drive responsibly by buckling up, driving the speed limit, not drinking and driving and not driving distracted.
“It is our hope that Teen Driver Safety Week will get the word out to all parents of teens, and help them discuss these important issues,” said Mick Mulhern, youth coordinator for the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau. “I get it,” he added. “You probably think your teens aren’t listening, but if this one conversation could save a life, isn’t it a conversation worth having?”