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Parents, Teens Work Together for Teen Driver Safety Week

Although Arkansas’ death rate has dropped by 15 percent over the last decade, it is still 40 percent higher than the U.S. rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
LITTLE ROCK, AR (News Release) -- Despite major progress in road safety, car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among teens ages 15-19 in the United States. In its continuing commitment to safety, the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital is participating in National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW), which runs through Oct. 26. This year, NTDSW focuses on the role parents and guardians play with the theme “It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving.”

“Arkansas death rates for teen drivers have begun to drop since the passage of our graduated driver license law in 2009,” said Mary Aitken, MD, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). “But we still have high rates and crashes continue to kill more of our teens than any other cause. We know that parents make the critical difference between safe behavior and risky behavior for their teen children. Parents who talk about driving safety, require seatbelt use and model it themselves, and who enforce GDL compliance starting at home have a great influence in making safer teen drivers.”

Over the last 10 years, an average of 600 Arkansans have died on an annual basis from motor vehicle-related crashes. Although Arkansas’ death rate has dropped by 15 percent over the last decade, it is still 40 percent higher than the U.S. rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Arkansas has also made great strides in reducing teen-related motor vehicle crashes and fatalities by passing the graduated driver licensing law for teen drivers. According to the Arkansas Center for Health Promotion, there was a 22 percent reduction in crashes involving 16-year-olds and a 59 percent reduction in teen driver fatalities when comparing data between the year before the GDL was passed and the year after.

NTDSW’s theme of shared expectations for parents and teens highlights the importance of adult guidance when young drivers get behind the wheel.  To help teens respect the privilege of driving, the Injury Prevention Center at ACH recommends that parents and guardians follow these guidelines.
  • Set a good example when you drive.  Always follow traffic and safety laws. Use a seat belt every time you are in the car.  Drive the speed limit. Do not drive while drowsy, impaired or distracted.
  • Check your state’s laws that apply to your teen, such as limits on the number of people a teen may have in the car and the hours teens may drive.
  • Practice driving with your teen in difficult situations, such as in heavy traffic, during different weather patterns and at night.
  • Stay calm and patient and give helpful feedback. Offer praise when your teen makes good decisions.
  • A parent-teen driving contract, available at www.preventchildinjury.org, will set clear rules and consequences if rules are broken. Make sure the contract requires seat belt use for each person in the car at all times, no cell phones or electronic devices and checking in with parents.
  • Ask your teen’s doctor if any of the medicine he is taking might affect how he drives.
  • Remember that age alone is not a sign your teen is ready to drive. You know your child best. If she takes too many risks or does not pay attention to details, she may not be ready to drive.
More prevention tips are available at www.preventchildinjury.org.

To see an interview with teen Raygan Sylvester and State Farm's Gary Stephenson, watch the embedded video. Mobile users can find it in the "Video" section of the KARK 4 News app.
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