Crashes leading cause of teen death

Special to the Altus Times

National Teen Driver Safety Week is coming Oct. 16-22 and according to AAA, 21 percent more Oklahoma teens were involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2015 than in 2014.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, the number of drivers age 16 to 19 involved in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 in the state — 13,683 — is 8.5 percent more than the 12,611 teens involved in crashes the year before.

“We know Oklahoma’s graduated driver licensing law and the recent ban on texting by all drivers are having positive impacts on teen crash rates, but clearly more needs to be done,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “AAA believes parents are the key. We need to get more involved in our teens’ driving lives by teaching safety behind the wheel, setting boundaries and being good role models.”

In Oklahoma and nationwide, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens.

According to a new AAA survey, Skills of Novice Teen Drivers, 142 driving instructors said speeding is one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive. The other two are:

* Distraction: Interacting with a cellphone, talking with passengers or looking at other objects in the vehicle.

* Poor visual scanning: Driving with tunnel vision and not properly scanning the road for risks or hazards.

“Nearly 2/3 of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen,” Mai. said. “Over the past five years, teen drivers have been involved in nearly 14,000 fatal crashes nationwide. Families are being forever changed as a result of a moment of inattention or a poor choice made by a teen driver.”

In addition to revealing that parents today are worse at preparing their teens to drive than they were 10 years ago, driving instructors report that parents often set bad examples through their own behaviors. A recent survey from the Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers aged 35-55 commonly report doing dangerous things when behind the wheel.

* 77 percent of drivers aged 35-55 reported talking on a cellphone while driving, compared to 68 percent of teen drivers.

* A similar proportion of teens and drivers aged 35-55 reported often driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a divided highway, 45 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

Parents should stay actively involved in coaching their teens through the learning-to-drive process by:

* Having conversations early and regularly about the dangers of speeding and distraction.

* Taking the time to practice driving with their teens in varying conditions.

* Adopting and enforcing a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for the road.

* Leading by example and minimizing distractions and speeding when they are driving.

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Special to the Altus Times

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