On Oct. 23, students at Cambridge High School in North Atlanta experienced firsthand the perils of distracted driving and the consequences of making bad decisions. The school-wide event was co-sponsored by Drive Smart Georgia and the PTSA in conjunction with National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs from Oct. 20-26.
Car crashes remain the #1 cause of death for adolescents. To put the spotlight on the serious issue of teen driving, Congress established National Teen Driver Safety Week in 2007. According to a study by the Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen drivers are about 50 percent more likely to crash in the first month of unsupervised driving than they are after a full year of experience driving on their own. The overwhelming majority (75 percent) of serious teen driver crashes are due to "critical errors” like not responding to hazards, driving too fast, and being distracted.
Drive Smart Georgia and the Cambridge High School PTSA wanted to make students in grades 9-12 aware of the dangers of driving by putting the emphasis on safety. During the lunchtime event, students drove a simulator in extreme weather conditions, wore “drunk goggles” to experience firsthand the dangers of drinking and driving, and signed a “safe driving pledge.”
Becky Geisel, a PTSA volunteer and parent of two 15-year-old Cambridge High School students, was on hand during the National Teen Driver Safety Week event. She was impressed with the student interaction and said, “This event brings an awareness to safe driving and the perils of texting and driving and driving under the influence.” John Shayne, a 16-year-old junior had the following advice for his classmates, “Turn your phone off in the car. Knowing it’s on is the biggest distraction there is.” Brian Moore, another junior, added, “It makes me aware of all the dangers and to be more cautious.”
Jeannine Jannott, a parent of two Cambridge students and the PTSA VP of Health and Safety, attended the event to promote teen driver safety and the Cambridge Cares program, a PTSA initiative that promotes mental wellness. “It’s been very well received by the students,” she stated while admiring at the great turnout. This year, the PTSA produced a mass quantity of “Don’t Text and Drive” wristbands for the student body. Students were encouraged wrap them around their phones to remind them to turn them off while driving.
Steve Jones, the owner of Drive Smart Georgia, was more than happy to participate in National Teen Driver Safety Week. He explained...
We really want to show students what can happen when they don’t concentrate on driving. Unsafe practices like drinking and driving, texting, and having too many friends in the car can have dire consequences.
Facts about Teen Crashes:
- The fatal crash rate for drivers ages 16 to 19, based on miles driven, is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 69.4.
- Teen passengers and cell phones are two distractions proven to kill teens.
- Environmental conditions such as poor weather, vehicle malfunction, or aggressive driving, or physical impairments such as drowsy driving are not primary factors in most crashes.
Drive Smart Georgia offers the following safety tips for teenage drivers:
- The longest 500 miles for teens and parents. A teenager’s first 500 miles of driving are the most dangerous. During that time, they’re 10 times more likely to crash than an adult.
- No friends in the car for the first 6 months. It’s the law in Georgia! The presence of one passenger doubles the fatal crash risk for a teen driver and the risk increases with each additional passenger, yet recent research shows that few teens recognize the impact passengers have on driver safety.
- 25% of accidents are caused by texting. Put your cell phone down!
- Lead by example. Most teens follow similar driving habits of their parents. So, drive the speed limit, don’t use your cell phone (reading emails included and even at stop lights) and keep it safe on the road.
- Don’t let your teen drive whenever they want. Teens with easy access to a vehicle are more likely to crash than those who have to “ask for permission” and have a more structured approach.
Parents are pivotal in the learning-to-drive process for teens, but they may not always have the tools and knowledge they need to be effective. Be sure to check out these valuable resources from Teen Driver Source.
To learn more about National Teen Driver Safety Week, be sure to watch the video above and to the left by WDTN TV.
To receive future articles by Jackie Kass, scroll to the top of this article, and click on SUBSCRIBE. Do you have a story idea? E-mail your ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.