Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
CHEROKEE COUNTY —
While Oct. 20-26 is National Teen Driver Safety Week, parents don't have to wait to address good driving habits with young drivers in the family.
Cherokee County Extension Agent Wendi Green offered a few ideas to help parents get started:
• Practice driving with your teen as often as possible.D
• Discuss your rules of the road, and create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.
• Model good driving behavior for your teen by always using seat belts and never using a cell phone while driving.
• Share your rules with other parents and teens.
DPS Sgt. Patrick Dark, who is assigned to Cherokee County, also reminded drivers to “watch out for everything around you – not only are you responsible for your own driving, but be aware of others' driving.
“Unfortunately, we have so many drivers nowadays who try to do everything but drive,” he said. “There are so many different distractions in a vehicle, so when you're starting out, stay focused.”
Also, he said, implement good driving habits from the start, “because driving is like any other skill you learn: The more repetition, the better you become at it.”
Young drivers generally tend to be more at risk because of inexperience and brain development, according to a new study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).
“Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teens,” the study states, with statistics revealing that teens are most likely to have a crash during the first six months after getting receiving their driver's license.
Their inexperience – coupled with fact that the prefrontal cortex of their brains are not fully developed even at ages 15-17 – results in decisions that lead to crashes, the study states.
The number of incidents rise if there are additional passengers in the vehicle, TTI said: Teens are eight times more likely to be in a fatal crash when they are carrying two or more teen passengers.
Passage of the 2002 Texas Graduated Driver’s License law was designed to limit the number of teenage passengers who can legally ride with a new driver, using a two-phase program to help prepare teens as better drivers.
During the first phase, a teen driver must always be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older when operating a vehicle; in the second phase, teens cannot operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger under the age of 21 unless those passengers are also family members.
Other restrictions apply: A teenager may not operate a vehicle between midnight and 5 a.m., unless the teen is driving to attend work or a school-related activity, or responding to an emergency situation.
Sgt. Dark also suggest parents also look into driver's education or defensive driving classes for their teenage drivers, because while drivers normally look at a defensive driving course as a way to get an insurance discount or to address traffic tickets, the information from the course is invaluable.
“Really, it would be a great class for anybody because there is a lot of good information,” he said.