By Emily Wilfong
Special to The SUN
Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens? In 2012, there were 859 teen drivers killed in crashes.
“We want parents to know that even though their teens might be gaining some independence, the parents’ job doesn’t end there,” said Darrell Lingk, director of the Office of Transportation Safety at Colorado Department of Transportation. “Teens are still kids. They still need rules and restrictions, and believe it or not, parents — they’ll listen to you.”
The “5 to Drive” campaign was launched during Teen Driver Safety Week in 2013, and it addresses the five most dangerous and deadly behaviors for teen drivers. The idea behind the campaign is to give parents the words to use when they talk with their teens about driving. NHTSA’s website, www.safercar.gov/parents, has detailed information and statistics about the five rules designed to help save the lives of teen drivers. The “5 to Drive” rules for parents to share with their teens are:
• No drinking and driving.
• Buckle up. Every trip. Every time. Front seat and back.
• Put it down. One text or call could wreck it all.
• Stop speeding before it stops you.
• No more than one passenger at a time.
Teen drivers need to follow these rules — and any other restrictions outlined in Colorado’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) law. Parents have a responsibility to tell their teen drivers about the rules and enforce them. But, sadly, only about 25 percent of parents have serious talks with their kids about safe driving. The “5 to Drive” campaign was designed to help parents start that conversation.
Although it’s illegal in all 50 States and D.C. for youth under age 21 to buy or drink alcohol, nationally in 2012, 28 percent of the young drivers (15 to 20 years old) who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. Also in 2012, of all the young (15- to 20-year-old) passenger vehicle drivers killed in crashes, more than half (55 percent) of those killed were not wearing seat belts.
Texting and driving has become a national epidemic, and teens are some of the worst offenders. In 2012, among drivers 15 to 19 years old who were distracted in fatal crashes, nearly one in five were distracted by their phones. Speeding is also a common contributing factor in fatal crashes. In 2012, speeding was a factor in almost half (48 percent) of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers. By comparison, 30 percent of all fatal crashes that year involved speeding.
Novice drivers have enough to focus on without the added distraction of extra passengers. The level of distraction caused by other teen passengers can be disastrous. In fact, the risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional passenger. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior while traveling with multiple passengers increases to three times.
For more information about the “5 to Drive” campaign, please visit www.safercar.gov/parents.