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KOHS reminds parents: Before handing over car keys, make sure teens know rules of the road

The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) is helping empower parents to talk with their young drivers about the importance of driving safely. They are joining the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in their efforts during National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 18-24.

“I want our roads to be safe for all Kentuckians, including our youngest drivers. In just a few years, I’ll be teaching my own kids how to drive, which is scary to think about for any parent,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “However, I know that by supporting my daughter and son and staying involved in their learning, I’ll be able to keep them and the people around them safer. I hope all Kentucky parents take an active role in teaching and encouraging safe driving and that our teens understand how big this responsibility is.”

“Parents have a strong influence on their teens, even as they grow older and become more independent,” said Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray. “Because they are new to driving, teen drivers are a potential danger to themselves and to other drivers, which is why it is so important that parents take time to discuss safe driving practices with their teens.”

According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Per mile driven, teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.

During the past three years in Kentucky, there were more than 63,000 crashes involving a teenage driver, resulting in more than 16,000 injuries and more than 200 fatalities. 

“Laws are not enough to protect these young drivers. We need parents to set the rules before handing over the car keys,” said KOHS Acting Executive Director Jason Siwula. “We hope parents will start the conversation about safe driving during National Teen Driver Safety Week, but continue the conversations throughout the year to help keep their teens safe.”

NHTSA’s website, www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving, has information and statistics on teen driving and outlines six basic rules for the road:

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

2. Wear 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 members of 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. Take Extra Caution While Driving With Passengers: Passengers in a teen’s car can lead to tragedy. 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. Obey 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. Never Drive Impaired: 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. Don’t Drive 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.

“While we encourage parents to discuss rules for the road, it’s also important to show teens how to implement these rules by being a positive example when behind the wheel,” said Siwula. “Be a good role model. Drive sober, obey the speed limit, get enough rest before you drive, always buckle up and put the phone down.”

For additional assistance, the KOHS partnered with the Kentucky Safety Prevention Alignment Network (KSPAN) to develop the Kentucky Checkpoints program. This free program works with county and community entities, high schools and health departments to educate parents and teens on Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) requirements and risks to teen drivers.

To learn more visit the KSPAN website here or contact KSPAN Program Coordinator Steve Sparrow at Steve.Sparrow@uky.edu.

Additional information on GDL restrictions can be found on Kentucky’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) law website.

From Kentucky Office of Highway Safety

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