By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District

October 21-27 is National Teen Driver Safety Week. This week is a great opportunity for parents to start – and hopefully continue – having conversations with their teens about the importance of driving safely.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States with 1,972 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015. They further estimate 99,000 teen passengers in vehicles with teen drivers were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.

The greatest dangers for teen drivers are alcohol consumption, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding and driving with passengers in the vehicle.

Parents can be the biggest influencers on teens’ choices behind the wheel if they take the time to talk with their teens about some of the biggest driving risks. The NHTSA and U.S. Department of Transportation recommends not only starting the conversation with your teen about safe driving habits during National Teen Driver Safety Week, but continuing that conversation every day throughout the year. Even if it seems like your teen is tuning you out, keep reinforcing these rules because they are listening and your constant reminders about these powerful messages will get through.

Some of the advice and suggestions you can give, according to the NHTSA and U.S. Department of Transportation, includes:

·        Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle and it is required in all 50 States. Yet too many teens are not buckling up and neither are their passengers. In fact, there were 569 passengers killed in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers, and more than half (54 percent) of those passengers who died were not buckled up at the time of the fatal crash.

·        Distractions while driving are risky and can be deadly. In 2016, among teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes, 10 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Remind your teen about the dangers of texting and using a phone while driving. Distracted driving isn’t limited to cell phone use, however. Other passengers, audio and climate controls in the vehicle and eating or drinking while driving are all examples of dangerous distractions for teen drivers.

·        Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially for teens. In 2016, almost one-third (31 percent) of teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in a fatal crash were speeding at the time of the crash. Remind your teen that they should always drive within the speed limit.

·        Passengers in a teen’s car can lead to disastrous consequences. Per data analyzed by NHTSA, teen drivers were 2.5 times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger when compared to driving alone. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behaviors triples when driving with multiple passengers.

·        Between school, work, sports, friends and family and other activities, teens are busier than ever. However, with so much going on, teens tend to compromise something very important: sleep. Driving drowsy is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving. Make sure your teen gets a good night’s sleep because they’ll be safer on the road.

NHTSA’s website, www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving, has detailed information and statistics on teen driving, and outlines the basic rules parents can use to help reduce the risks for teen drivers.

I am hopeful that, through these efforts and that of others, we can prevent future accidents from occurring. Please drive safe.

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