Fast Lane: Motor vehicle accidents leading cause of death among teens: Tips to keep your kids safe behind the wheel

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As teen-agers eagerly look forward to high school prom and graduation celebrations, parents are equally excited, but perhaps a little concerned, in hoping students celebrate safely and responsibly. What should be a memorable time for students could easily be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death among 15- to-20-year-olds. In 2005, The Allstate Foundation released a comprehensive report, “Chronic: A Report on the State of Teen Driving.” The report includes an in-depth study of teen attitudes about driving and suggests reasons why young drivers become involved in motor vehicle accidents.

Among the Chronic Report’s findings are the following:

More than half (56 percent) make and answer phone calls while driving.

13 percent (an estimated 1.6 million teens) said they drive while reading or writing text messages.

Forty-seven percent said passengers sometimes distract them.

Sixty-four percent admit they speed up to go through a yellow light.

Nearly 70 percent of teens said they’ve felt unsafe when someone else was driving, but less than half (45 percent) would speak up.

“This is the time of year when high school students have a lot going on in their lives,” said Denis Bailey, field vice president for Allstate’s Midwest Region. “A lot of those activities involve driving with friends—particularly for prom and graduation events. With all the excitement, it’s easy for young drivers to lose focus on safety when behind the wheel, but it’s their responsibility to eliminate distractions and look out for themselves, their friends and others on the road.”

So what can parents do to help prepare their teens for the prom and other events while keeping a focus on safety? Allstate Insurance recommends the following tips:

Be clear about the dangers of drinking and driving: Driving under the influence is illegal and unacceptable. Many statistics can illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving, but make it clear to your teen that making it a safe evening for all is top priority.

Establish an SOS: Transportation plans can easily change on the spot, and teens may find themselves in potentially dangerous situations. Make sure your teen knows it’s OK to not take a ride with a driver whose behavior causes concern. Teens should be able to call parents or a responsible adult for a safe ride.

Plan an alternate source of transportation: Instead of driving, arrange for a cab or a limousine.

Limit the number of passengers in your teen-ager’s car: More passengers create more potential distractions for the driver.

Reduce distractions: Warn your teen about the dangers of driver distractions, including eating, drinking, or using a cell phone while driving.

Buckle up: Teens, more than any group of drivers and passengers, don’t use seatbelts. In many communities, though, it’s the law.

No matter how hectic your teen’s social calendar is on prom night, or any other night, safety should never take a back seat to any special occasion.

The Allstate Corporation is the nation’s largest publicly-held personal lines insurer. Widely known through the “You’re In Good Hands With Allstate®” slogan, Allstate helps individuals in approximately 17 million households protect what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow through approximately 14,800 exclusive agencies and financial representatives in the U.S. and Canada. Customers can access Allstate products and services such as auto insurance and homeowners’ insurance through Allstate agencies, or in select states at and 1-800 Allstate®.

from the May 23-29, 2007, issue

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