OPINION | Recent news urges teen safety on roads

Within a three-day span, stories and photographs of three car accidents involving multiple teen deaths hit national media outlets, especially on the Internet.

On Sunday, five teens and young female driver lost there lives when the SUV they were riding in crashed into a swampy pond 60 miles north of Cleveland. Speeding was the cause of the accident.

Also on Sunday, five teens, ages 15 to 17,  were killed near Dumas, Texas, when the car they ran a stop sign and crashed into a tanker truck loaded with fuel.

On Tuesday, the bodies of four teens, ages 15 to 17, were found in a vehicle that crashed near a creek southwest of Chicago.

In three accidents, 12 teens lost their lives — not counting others not reported.

It’s never easy hearing or reading about young lives being lost because of senseless accidents involving drinking, drugs, speeding or careless driving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens. In 2010, seven teens, ages 16 to 19, died every day form injuries cause by motor vehicle accidents. Per mile driven, teen drivers (ages 16 to 19) are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.

In 2010, 22 percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were drinking.

Also in 2010, 56 percent of drivers, ages 15 to 20, were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt. Half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight and 55 percent occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

A 2011 national survey conducted 24 percent of teens reported that, within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol and 8 percent reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month peri

Teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can improve the safety of young drivers on the road. Parents urge your teen drivers to be extra careful when traveling on the roadways.

We don’t want your teen to become a statistic, so here are a few tips for teen drivers from DMV.org:

• Keep your cell phone off — Studies indicate using a cell phone while driving is the equivalent of driving drunk — that’s even when using a hands-free phone.

• Don’t text — Research shows texting — on average — causes a loss of focus on the road for five seconds. A lot can go wrong in five seconds.

• Turn on your headlights — Doing so can increase your visibility and help other drivers see you, even on sunny days.

• Obey the speed limit — Speeding causes about 40 percent of all fatal teen accidents. That’s true when driving on roads with lots of traffic or you’re not familiar with.

• Minimize distractions — It may be tempting to eat, drink, flip around the radio dial, or play music loudly while you’re cruising around town; however, all can cause your mind or vision to wander, even for a few seconds. And, that can be enough for an inexperienced driver to lose control of your car, or not notice an obstacle in the road.

• Drive solo — Having a single teen passenger in your car can double the risk of causing a car accident. Adding additional teen passengers causes the risk to escalate.

• Practice defensive driving — Always be aware of the traffic ahead, behind, and next to you, and have possible escape routes in mind. Stay at least one car length behind the car in front of you in slower speeds, and maintain a larger buffer zone with faster speeds.

• Choose a safe car — If possible, drive a safe car with the latest safety equipment (such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and air bags), and one with an excellent crash safety record.

Parents, take a few moments and urge your teens to be safe on the roadways. We don’t want to write about your teen driver being killed in a careless motor vehicle accident.


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