Parents encouraged to talk to their teens about safe driving - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Parents encouraged to talk to their teens about safe driving

Michael Donneff, Head Instructor/Owner, Safe Driving School, Inc. Michael Donneff, Head Instructor/Owner, Safe Driving School, Inc.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It is National Teen Driver Safety Week and AAA Carolinas is urging parents to talk to their teenagers about driving and the dangers they may encounter behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 15 to 19-years-old in the United States. 

In 2013, more than 2,600 teen passenger vehicle drivers were involved in fatal crashes and more than 130,000 were injured, according to NHTSA.

AAA Carolinas says the importance of safety should be a priority for all parents and having a serious conversation about their habits and behaviors behind the wheel could save a teen's life. 

A parent has the biggest influence on a teen driver, but recent surveys have shown only 25 percent of parent have had a serious talk with their teens about the key elements of driving. 

Mike Donneff, owner and head instructor of Safe Driving School, Inc., said it is a conversation that is needed. "The parents should be talking about driving situations as they come up, tell the student, tell the teenager, put the phone down listen to what I'm saying, watch what I am doing, and I think that will help," Donneff said.  

What could also help? Parents should discuss the rules of the road, why they are important to follow and consequences for breaking them. 

The campaign theme "5 to Drive" for the week helps parents protect teen drivers, by giving them five necessary rules that teen drivers need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel. 

The "5 to Drive" rules for parents to share with their teens are:

1. No Drinking and Driving. According to NHTSA almost 19 percent of the young drivers (15-19) involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, even though they were too young to legally buy or possess alcohol. 

2. Buckle up. 64 percent of all the young passengers of teen drivers who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 were not restrained. 

3. Put it Down. 15 to 19-years-old has the highest percentage of driver who were distracted by cell phone use and involved in a fatal crash. 

4. Stop Speeding. In 2013, almost 29 percent of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding. 

5. No More Than One Passenger at a Time. The risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional passenger. 

Donneff says surprisingly, cell phones are not the biggest distraction for teen drivers. "The biggest distraction right now is not the phones it's other teenagers in the car," he explained. 

Donneff said the key elements of driving are part of teaching teens to be safe drivers.  "Eyes way down the road we like to look 12 to 15 seconds down the road, which is pretty far down the road, and space in front of our car. We need to have 2 to 3 seconds of space in front of car," rules that Donneff said he explains to students.  

He recommends parents to put the rules for driving in writing, an agreement signed by teen and parent. 

"It's a parent-teen contract that says when they can drive, who they can drive with, of course no drugs, no alcohol."

According to AAA Carolinas having rules, conditions, restrictions, and consequences of your teen's driving written down in advance establishes driving as a privilege. AAA offers parent-teen driving agreements at http://teen driving.aaa.com.

Regular parental involvement and communication each week can help prevent teen-related crashes, injuries and fatalities. Doing so reinforces expectations and helps new drivers earn more responsibility.

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