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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spring Deadly Time of Year For Teenage Drivers

As Weather Warms, Nearly One-Third of Teen Driving Deaths Occur

Spring is one of the deadliest times for teen drivers—nearly one-third of all teen-driving deaths occur between April and June.

Toy McCoy, who promotes "decision driving" among high school students for the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, said that's no accident. He recalls piling into a car with three other kids for his first high school homecoming. The sudden freedom of summer, the proms, graduations, parties, all tend to make young drivers feel invincible.

McCoy, a 1996 graduate of North Chicago High School, said, "Teens need our help in making the right decision about getting in or not getting in a car. Four kids increase the chances of an accident 400 percent. If there's laughing in the back seat, the driver is going to turn around."

McCoy spoke about responsible driving at Waukegan High School in Chicago, when mock accident and arrests were demonstrated by students, including those dressed in prom gowns and tuxedos.

Recently, Liberty Mutual parked two smashed cars outside the high school for kids to think about. Both cars were driven by teens 16 through 18.

"Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens in America," McCoy said. "These cars remind us that drinking and driving is unacceptable and that one poor decision can instantly make a happy prom a tragic one."

Emily Heim, a Waukegan High junior who founded a chapter of SADD—Students against Destructive Decisions/Students Against Drunk Driving—at the school this year, offered a slide presentation about a teen girl from Texas who was burned over 60 percent of her body when the car she was riding in caught fire after it was totaled by a drunk driver.

Heim has personal knowledge of destructive actions. Her older brother, Peter, died of a heroin overdose three years ago. "Before my brother died, I brushed off concerns about drugs, alcohol and peer pressure," she began. "Now I let friends know if you need a place to stay, if any of them get stranded, they can stay with me."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 7,500 young drivers, ages 15 to 20, were involved in deadly crashes in 2006 in the United States. Of the 3,490 teen drivers who died in those crashes, twenty-three percent were drunk.

McCoy played a short but chilling video of the consequences of an accident in which a drunken teen crashed his vehicle into a tree. The young man suffered broken bones and a head injury. McCoy told students that after the victim was released from the hospital, he began drinking again.

The presentation made Brandon Flowers, 18, think. "The decisions that I'm making need to be better," he said. "I need to be smarter."

Allen Nettnin, 17, said he knows a great number of kids who drink. "When they're out with their friends, the last thing they're thinking about is whether or not they're going to get in a crash," he said.

Alex Lucas, 18, said that students respond to visual demonstrations, "The car crash stuff makes everything seem more real," she said.

Online courses are now available to educate drivers on the rules of the road and the latest defensive driving techniques. Try it today!

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The National Safety Commission, Inc.
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Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32004-3359

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