[r85] The Pond Report (7/25/2007)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Start Date: 7/25/2007 All Day
End Date: 7/25/2007

Summer is here and many teenage drivers are out and about enjoying their new found freedom and break from school.  Unfortunately, many may be cruising towards disaster.  Between the months of June through September, more teens die in car accidents than any other time of year. On average, during the summer months a teenage driver spends about 23.6 hours behind the wheel each week, compared to 16.4 hours during the school year.  Besides the increased time on the road, many are participating in more risky behaviors such as driving with three or more other teens, using cell phones, driving late at night or driving while sleepy or fatigued, which can lead to accidents, injuries or death. 

During summer break, teens often pack into one car, which significantly increases crash rates.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, crash rates for teens rise with the number of passengers in the car, especially in inexperienced drivers.  Teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 who were driving without passengers were involved in 1.6 accidents per 10,000 trips.  That risk dramatically increases to 6.3 accidents per 10,000 trips, when 16 and 17 year olds drive with three or more passengers.  Allen County teens were surveyed and they reported that 50 percent of the time they spend on the road is with another teenage passenger.

Parents can reduce their teens' risk by phasing in privileges as their new driver gains experience.  The Allen County Coroners office recommends that parents discourage drinking, prohibit driving after drinking, require seatbelt use, restrict passengers, restrict night driving and supervise practice driving.  It is important to make sure your child has as few distractions as possible when learning to drive.  In Indiana, individuals who are under 18 are issued probationary drivers licenses and for the first 90 days may not operate a motor vehicle with passengers, unless someone who is at least 21 years of age with a valid driver license is in the front seat.  The probationary license also restricts driving after curfew.  While Indiana does have a few graduate licensing laws, it is still up to the parents to monitor their child's behavior.  

While many teens believe that nothing is ever going to happen to them, one reality factor that seems to resonate with teen drivers is speeding tickets.  Besides the initial cost of paying the ticket, many teens do not realize the additional penalties.  One citation could end up costing $3,000 due to increased insurance rates. In addition, serious infractions could amount to the entire family being dropped from the insurance policy. 

The Allen County Coroners office has developed the Drive Alive campaign to raise awareness about the risk of teen drivers.  I encourage everyone to check out their website at http://www.allencountydrivealive.org/ or contact my office at 1-800-382-9841, e-mail me at h85@in.gov or write me at 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204 for more information. 

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