Sunday marks beginning of National Teen Driver Safety Week

Published: Oct. 20, 2019 at 3:27 PM EDT
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National Teen Driver Safety Week kicks off Sunday.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wrecks are the leading cause of death for teens aged 15 to 18.

Over the past three years in Kentucky, there were more than 42,000 crashes involving teen drivers.

Those caused more than 12,000 injuries and 162 deaths.

NHTSA's website has information and statistics on teen driving, and outlines six basic rules for the road:

1. Distracted Driving: According to NHTSA, driver distraction is the leading factor in most crashes. Talking or texting on cell phones, talking to passengers, adjusting audio and climate controls in the vehicle, and eating or drinking while driving are all examples of distractions. Additionally, headphones are not safe to wear while driving, as they can distract a driver from hearing sirens, horns or other important sounds.

2. Seat Belts: Wearing a seat belt is the best protection against injury and death, yet according to NHTSA, teens are less likely to be buckled up than any other age group. Properly fastened seat belts contact the strongest parts of the body, such as the chest, hips, and shoulders. A seat belt spreads the force of a crash over a wide area of the body, putting less stress on any one part and allows the body to slow down with the crash, extending the time when the crash forces are felt by the occupant.

3. Passengers: Passengers in a teen's car can lead to disastrous consequences. NHTSA research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up dramatically in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.

4. Speed Limits: Limits are put in place to protect all road users. Driving over the speed limit greatly reduces a driver's ability to steer safely around another vehicle, a hazardous object or an unexpected curve. According to NHTSA, young males are most likely to be involved in speed-related fatal crashes.

5. Impaired Driving: All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol, but they are still at risk. Once a person takes a drink, impairment begins. Alcohol slows reflexes, weakens coordination, blurs eyesight, gives a false sense of being in control and leads to risky decision-making. Like alcohol, marijuana and other drugs also affect a driver's ability to safely react to their surroundings.

6. Driving Drowsy: Between school and extracurricular activities, teens are busier than ever and tend to compromise something very important: sleep. According to NHTSA's National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study, drowsy drivers are twice as likely to make performance errors in a crash as compared to drivers who are not fatigued.

Explaining the rules, restrictions outlined in Kentucky's graduated driver licensing (GDL) law, and the deadly consequences of unsafe driving practices can help encourage teens to exhibit safe driving behaviors.

For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and to learn more safe driving tips for your teens, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.