EATON — In the carefree, limited-responsibility days of summer, when teens and young adults take to the road for adventures, parties and fun, safety behind the wheel is of prime importance.
According to the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, with one teen dying in a traffic crash about once an hour on weekends and nearly once every two hours during the week. Within the 16-19 year old range, the youngest drivers have the highest risk, and the crash rate for 16-year-olds is much higher even than that for 17-year-olds, and almost nine times greater than the general driving population.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. According to a 2009 Department of Public Safety study, more than 1000 young driver fatalities claimed 15-18 year olds over the previous decade, with a third of those deaths occurring in rural communities. Seventy-six percent of nighttime crashes involve young drivers.
Recently, Preble County Sheriff Michael Simpson offered some advice for local parents on the topic of teen driving safety.
“Know where your teenager’s at, what party they may be going to. Obviously, anyone under the age of 21 should not be drinking without a parent. We hope teenagers will make the right decision and don’t drink.”
He also cautioned parents who host parties for their children. “Parents who may choose to host a party need to familiarize themselves with the law and not offer alcohol to underaged persons,” he said. “That will get them criminally charged really quick, and we don’t want a party to end tragically because someone wasn’t controlling the proceedings.”
“Teenage drivers are the most likely to be involved in fatal crashes,” he reiterated while discussing risk behaviors. “Watching speed, making sure seatbelts are buckled…all inportant things to pay attention to. Stay off that cell phone, whether it be a text message, an email, somebody trying to call you — that can wait until you get where you’re going. If you have to make a phone call, pull over into a parking lot or on the side of the road.”
Teenage drivers are more easily distracted than more seasoned road veterans, he said, because lack of experience behind the wheel makes it easier to miss important things or become distracted from them.
“Don’t try to multitask,” he urged. “The biggest distraction for young drivers is the other people in the car with them. The talking, the passing things back and forth, the radio, everybody having a good time. Before you realize it, you’re driving faster than you mean to, you’re not paying attention to your surroundings, and then a crash has occurred and you can’t do anything about it.”
A 2015 change to Ohio driving laws now states that licensed drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from driving between midnight and 6 a.m., and prevents them from having more than one non-family member in the car at any time. The use of mobile devices while driving is also banned for drivers in this age group.
“Parents should have good conversations with their teen drivers,” said Sheriff Simpson, “and also the adults, the 18- and 19-year-olds who are driving around for the summer.”
Reach Duante Beddingfield at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @duanteb_RH.