While celebrities and parents alike have tried to educate teens about the dangers of driving while distracted, many have not heeded the lesson, as 86 percent of teens admit to being distracted while driving, according to a 2010 study by AAA and Seventeen magazine. Distractions include talking on the phone, texting, eating and changing channels on an MP3 player. This reality is especially alarming as traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Today’s teen drivers face an increasing number of risks and distractions, making safe driving habits more important than ever. At the same time, teen driving laws are evolving, and fewer public schools across the country can afford to offer driver education classes.
Many community organizations and even large businesses have stepped in to proactively help teens learn the importance of practicing safe driving skills. For example, UPS, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and UPS NASCAR driver David Ragan are partnering for the third consecutive year to present UPS Road Code, a comprehensive safe driving course to help teach Boys & Girls Club teens across the nation the importance of safe driving and defensive driving skills.
“When I’m on the race track, I’m surrounded by about 40 other cars while driving more than 150 mph — I can’t afford any distractions,” says Ragan, UPS Road Code spokesman. “Defensive driving is a priority for me, on and off the track, and I think there needs to be greater education for American teen-agers on what it means to be a safe driver.”
A teen’s first priority while driving should be to pay attention to the highway. Some helpful tips for keeping eyes on the road include the following:
• Give enough distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to allow you a view of all of your surroundings. A driver should be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you.
• Identify stale green lights, a light the driver did not see turn green, and prepare yourself for stopping if it turns red before you reach it.
• Be observant and expect other drivers to do unpredictable things while driving around you, such as speeding and changing lanes.
• Use your signals, lights and horn to communicate with other drivers on the road.
• Establish cushion space by delaying your start from an intersection by three seconds after the vehicle in front of you has moved.
• Check your mirrors every five to eight seconds because hazards that can cause an accident aren’t always in front of you.
Learning the risks and consequences of driving, plus hands-on experience behind the wheel, is essential to improve driving among teens. Drivers’ education, graduated licensing systems and teen-driving programs provide youth important information and the opportunity to practice safe driving. More teen safe-driving tips from UPS Road Code can be found online at www.ups.com/roadcode or by “liking” UPS Road Code on Facebook.
From the Aug. 10-16, 2011, issue