Eagle River Youth Coalition youth driving program is Thursday in Edwards | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Youth Coalition youth driving program is Thursday in Edwards

Daily staff report

EDWARDS — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. So, of course, your teen taking the wheel can feel harrowing and cause more than a little angst. There are laws to help keep teen drivers safe, but the first step to road safety is an open dialogue.

Start the conversation with Eagle River Youth Coalition's next Eat Chat Parent: Teens Taking the Wheel, Tips for Safe Driving today at Battle Mountain High School. The two-hour session will include interactive booths, expert panel presentations, an Impact Teen Drivers video and raffle prizes. This event is for both parents and teens ages 14 and older.

"Teens' brains are still developing. The more we can do to keep them safe behind the wheel, always the better," said Carol Johnson, Eagle River Youth Coalition community engagement coordinator and parent to three teenagers. "We want to empower teens with good decision-making abilities, on and off the road."

What it's like

Interactive displays will give teens a true feel of what can happen if they're not paying attention on the road and give them the resources to make the right choices. The goal is to reduce teen drivers' exposure to risk, modify risky driving behavior and develop driver skills and experience.

One of the top issues facing teen drivers is distracted driving, said school resource officer Megan Heil, from the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, especially with a car full of kids. Additionally, with the decriminalization of marijuana, there's an unfortunate increase in impaired driving. Teens at Eat Chat Parent can get a feel of just how destructive it can be to drive high or drunk when they don impairment goggles. They'll see, literally, how it feels to drive high or drunk.

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In addition, teens (and parents, too) can try out Alive at 25, a driver's awareness course; try driving simulators; watch Impact Teen Drivers, a short video; and visit with Eagle County staff, as well as the In and Out Driving School, regarding graduated license rules.

Students and their parents will have a Q-and-A with Heil; Phil Qualman, with the Eagle River Youth Coalition and Alpine Driving School; Barb Schierkolk, director of the victim impact panel; and Toby Baldwin, with the town of Avon Police Department and his daughter, Kelsea — both of whom where in a car accident earlier this year. They'll share their firsthand experiences of being saved by seat belts.

"We're really trying to partner with ERYC to provide parents with the necessary education to educate their teen drivers at home on the issues that are important to them; that's why we are providing education on a variety of topics at Eat Chat Parent," Heil said.

The Eagle River Youth Coalition is celebrating 15 years of service this year. The organization addresses service gaps, builds strengths and offers a variety of prevention programming. With a collaborative focus on meeting youth and familial needs, Eagle River Youth Coalition provides substance-abuse prevention, youth advocacy and parent outreach efforts throughout the Eagle River Valley.

To learn more, visit http://www.eagle youth.org.

If you go …

What: Eat Chat Parent Teens Taking the Wheel: Tips for Safe Driving.

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17.

Where: Battle Mountain High School, 151 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.

Cost: Free dinner and child care, as well as live interpretation.

More information: Event is for parents and kids 14 and older. To reserve a space, email cjohnson@eagleyouth.org or call 970-331-1487.