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Tips for Teens: Driving Requires More Than Just a Set of Car Keys and a License

With spring on our doorsteps, and warm weather right around the corner, Wahoo High School students are ready to slide behind the wheel, roll down their windows, and cruise the square. Whether you’re driving by yourself, or with a couple of friends, you need to constantly be aware of other drivers, exhibit caution, and limit your distractions.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, ranking above homicide and suicide at 38 percent. Just this last year, Allstate reported over 5,000 deaths among teenagers, all attributed to motor vehicle accidents. Of that 5,000, 51 came from Nebraska alone, ranking it 34 out of the 50 states.

Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz believes the main reason for Nebraska’s ranking is the result of student drivers’ lack of experience combined with overconfidence.

“They drive too fast, not taking [driving] seriously, and are overconfident in their driving ability,” said Stukenholtz.

There are some things students can do to lower the number of motor vehicle related deaths.

“More students driving with their parents is the most effective way, because you are logging more hours behind the wheel,” said Stukenholtz.

With so many motor vehicle accidents among teenagers, organizations have made it their mission to decrease the estimated 5,000 yearly motor vehicle deaths. Awareness groups are spreading knowledge about safe driving through community meetings, teen involvement, and Internet training.

The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles is also ensuring a safer driving environment for teens by revising driving laws. There are steps that you, as a driver, can also take.

Buckling your seatbelt, and making sure all your passengers are also buckled up, increases your safety in a crash by 45 percent. When you are driving, check your speedometer, because speeding triples your chances of being in a car crash.

Another step towards being a safer driver is keeping your cool. Bad drivers can easily become an annoyance, but don’t succumb to road rage because aggressive driving doubles your odds of causing an accident.

A big part in keeping safe on the road is getting rid of distractions. When you are distracted, your eyes are taken away from the road. Glancing away from the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of causing a car accident.

There are many distractions that you can do away with. You can leave your radio station, or CD, alone, and not eat or drink while you drive.

Randy Shada, instructor for Saunders County Driving School, views cell phones as being students’ biggest distraction because texting, calling friends, and surfing the web are constant temptations. Shada agrees with Stukenholtz that overconfidence is students’ biggest downfall when it comes to driving.

“They are too overconfident. They think they can handle any type of weather,” said Shada. “They don’t slowdown. They think they can handle the regular speed limit, but they don’t know how to drive in this snow.”

With prom on the horizon, Wahoo High School students need to be aware of the biggest distraction: passengers. For each passenger in your car, your chances of crashing increase by three to five times. Last year alone, Allstate reported nearly half of all fatal crashes involved one or more teen passengers. This is an important fact to remember when plans are being made to car pool to dinner before the dance.

So what can students do to ensure a safe passage before and after the dance?

“The biggest thing is not to be distracted,” said Wahoo High School principal Chris Arent. “You have to pay attention to your driving. That is the [driver’s] responsibility. The driver’s primary focus is to get everyone there safely.”

Students’ golden ticket for entrance into prom and post prom, is the breathalyzer test that will be waiting at the door. One of the most important factors in safe driving is leaving alcohol behind. Alcohol is a factor in nearly 25 percent of deadly teenage crashes. That is 1,250 out of the 5,000 fatal teen car crashes this last year.

After consuming just one alcoholic beverage, your reaction time is slower, and your ability to judge is no longer clear with the consumption of alcohol. Driving under the influence endangers not only your life, but also the lives of your passengers and the other drivers on the road.

So with longer days and warmer weather approaching, keep yourself and others safe by exercising safe driving. Ryan Buckholtz, creator of TeenDriving.com, offers these words of wisdom, “Don’t drive like you own the road, drive like you own the car.”

Information received from Allstate, AAA, CDC, DMV and AAA Living magazine.

Tips for Teens: Driving Requires More Than Just a Set of Car Keys and a License

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