Teen drivers in Eagle County need parents’ help | VailDaily.com

Teen drivers in Eagle County need parents’ help

Steve Lynn
Vail CO, Colorado
NWS Teen Drivers PU 11-15-07

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Tim Cochrane’s 23-year-old daughter, Erin Cochrane, has been to too many funerals of friends who have died in car accidents.

“I don’t think they should have to be burying their friends and that’s what’s going on,” Cochrane said.

In Eagle County, crashes are the leading cause of death for residents ages 15 to 25, according to a recent Eagle County health study. Nationwide, teen drivers have the highest risk of crashing out of any age group.

Injuries and deaths of teen drivers have left parents and others wondering what can be done to prevent young drivers from getting in accidents.

Tim Cochrane estimates that his 16-year-old daughter, Megan, will have driven more than 200 hours by the time she gets her license. Colorado law requires a minimum of 50 hours.

“You’ve got to give them the time behind the wheel,” Tim Cochrane said.

Cochrane tries to get Megan to see what he sees when he’s driving, such as driver’s failing to signal and people passing on the right and the left on Interstate 70. The goal is to get Megan to drive defensively, he said.

“A 16-year-old girl doesn’t look out the windshield like a 57-year-old man does,” he said.

Not paying attention while driving ” which could include talking on the cell phone or to a passenger, eating or fumbling with a stereo ” was the No. 1 cause of accidents that resulted in injury and death in Colorado last year, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

Inattentive driving ” by teens or others ” was the cause for some of the memorial services that Erin Cochrane, of Eagle, has attended. Teens driving drunk were to blame, too, she said.

Because of those deaths, Erin Cochrane has started driving slower, and she thinks other people should do the same.

But she wonders what else can be done to make sure teens drive carefully.

“Do I have to put up a billboard of each of these kid’s faces and say, “Don’t let this be you?'” Erin Cochrane asked.

Teens think they are invincible, she said.

According to a 2005 survey, only 75 percent of Eagle County high school students reported wearing a seat belt, compared to 84 percent statewide.

Not wearing a seat belt has sent at least two local teenagers to the hospital this year.

July 22, then 15-year-old Angela Lujan and 16-year-old Ryan Miller were ejected from a Ford Explorer when its tire blew out four miles west of Eagle on Interstate 70, police said. Miller was treated and released from Vail Valley Medical Center while Lujan was in critical condition at Vail Valley Medical Center before she was released.

It’s not just teens who drive poorly. Adults also cause problems by speeding and tail-gating, said Sandy Roberts, of Wolcott. Her daughter, Jamie Lee, goes to Battle Mountain High School and drives the speed limit.

“Kids don’t push her but the adults will come up right behind her” and tail-gate Jamie Lee, she said.

State Farm Insurance has a program called “Steer Clear” that has helped Roberts’ children become better drivers, she said.

Parents and teens participating in the program keep a driving log for each trip. They write mistakes the teens made and how their driving can be improved, said Will Comerford, State Farm insurance agent.

The log can be picked up at any State Farm office and teens can get a 15 percent discount on their insurance if the log is properly filled out, Comerford said.

“There is no way to guarantee a kid’s going to be a safe driver or an attentive driver, except for parent involvement,” Comerford said.

Tim Cochrane, director of operations for the Vail Mountain Rescue Group, listens to the police radio while on the job and sometimes he hears the fire department being called to a car accident.

“I just hope and pray it’s not another local kid,” he said. “We have gone to one to many memorial services lately.”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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