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Top risks for teen drivers

Don Rogers

One of those clippings came from The Wall Street Journal some time in the past year. It’s a column called the Health Journal, titled this day: “What parents can do to protect their teens from auto accidents.”

You can guess when she reached for the piece, and faxed it to us. The strong emotional reactions to the death of Eagle Valley High School student Skylar Hootman and critical injuries to classmates Travis Hansbarger and Laura Sandoval have covered a spectrum. Some have found some measure of relief in railing at the paper for covering this tragedy too closely for their comfort. Others have reached for a way to bring some meaning to it all, to help prevent further tragedies such as this one.

However much the overall community has grown over the past decade or so, this is still a place with a smalltown sensibility. If we don’t know the families personally, we assuredly know someone close to us who does. And it doesn’t get more painful than our young ones passing on before their time.



But back to the column. According to the author, Tara Parker-Pope, medical research suggests a greater danger to adolescent drivers than alcohol or speeding, two obvious killers that investigators say had no role in this accident.

Teen-age passengers, according to a John Hopkins University study dramatically raise the risk for teen drivers. The study says a 16-year-old carrying one teen passenger is 39 percent more likely to die in an accident than a teen driving without a teen passenger. Two teen passengers raise this risk by 86 percent. The risk rises with 17-year-old drivers.



Her column also talks about tougher state standards for licensing teen drivers and the good that does for saving lives. Driving at night is a big risk factor, along with driving fewer than 50 hours under direct adult supervision.

She suggests keeping a detailed driving log for your teen driver for at least the first 50 hours, including at least 10 hours of night driving, before letting them drive on their own.

Also, have them drive with adult supervision in a variety of conditions – snow, rain, rush hour.



North Carolina has a law forbidding teens from driving after 9 p.m., lowering the adolescent death rate in car accidents by 57 percent. Tougher rules for the young drivers seem to work.

That’s not to say this accident would not have happened. Statistics cannot guarantee, only suggest.

But it would be prudent for those of us fortunate enough to not have our children in that car at that time to glean what lessons we can. It’s all we can do at this point, really, to do what we can to avoid a repeat.

D.R.


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