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On behalf of the California Office of Traffic Safety
October is a month of holiday fun
and safe driving awareness
October is not only a month for tricks and treats, it is also a time to talk to young drivers about behind-the-wheel safety. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Approximately 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16 to 19 were killed and nearly 282,000 were treated and released from emergency departments for injuries sustained in motor-vehicle crashes in 2010. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) strongly encourages parents and other trusted adults, in conjunction with their young drivers, to participate in National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 20-26.
Following on the heels of that week is Halloween, the deadliest day of the year for child pedestrians. All drivers, not just teens, are encouraged to remain alert and drive cautiously when driving in areas where children may be present on Halloween. Parents who are taking their kids trick-or-treating this Halloween are highly encouraged to place reflective tape on their children’s costumes and bags, talk to their children about walking (not running) on sidewalks whenever possible, and to carry a flashlight to help everyone see and be seen.
To teach teenagers safe driving behaviors, adults are encouraged to spend time driving with their teens and discuss good driving habits during National Teen Driver Safety Week, which provides the perfect opportunity to broach the subject. The following tips can go a long way toward making sure your teen develops and practices safe driving behavior:
- Use positivity, not scare tactics – Positively engaging your teen is an effective way of bringing their attention to these issues without creating an atmosphere in which they feel attacked. Focusing on the deadly impacts of unsafe driving is a popular approach to reach teens, but a long-term foundation can be created by affirming good driving habits. Instead of telling them what not to do, try focusing on what good driving behavior is–wearing a seatbelt, driving focused and undistracted, and driving alert–both substance-free and well-rested.
- Use real-world situations to create an environment for teaching and learning – Letting your teen drive more often while you’re in the car gives you an opportunity to encourage good driving behaviors, such as adequate speed and following distance, as they are happening. It is also important to set a positive example by wearing a seatbelt at all times, driving at a safe speed and eliminating distractions as you drive, whether or not your teen is in the car with you.
- Remember, unsafe driving doesn’t stop at graduation – A lot of the focus on teen drivers falls on high school-aged teens, but out of sight should not mean out of mind. Teens starting college often experience more freedom, less supervision, and easier access to drugs and alcohol. A strong foundation can go a long way, but it is important to continue to educate young drivers by reminding them of responsible driving practices and ensuring that they understand the responsibility that comes with more freedom.
- Use resources, including other kids – Encourage your teen to get involved in-school and peer-to-peer programs such as Start Smart, Right Turn, Teen Smart, Every 15 Minutes, Friday Night Live, Sober Graduation, and Teens in the Driver’s Seat.
For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and other tips on keeping your teen safe behind the wheel, visit the California Office of Traffic Safety at www.ots.ca.gov and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at www.nhtsa.gov .