Teen Driving Week reminds us of safety needed

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By The Staff

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults in the U.S.

Here in Kentucky, statistics from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet show that drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 were involved in more than 26,000 collisions in 2008, resulting in 141 fatalities. Seventy-percent of those killed were teenagers.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 16-year-old drivers are more than twice as likely to be involved in fatal crashes as older drivers.

As we observe National Teen Driver Safety Week Oct. 18-24, I ask that you join me in encouraging teens to drive more safely.

Observed annually during the third week in October, National Teen Driver Safety Week is a time to bring teens, parents, educators, legislators and other community leaders together to help prevent teen crashes, injuries and fatalities.

Vehicle crashes killed more than 7,300 youth nationwide in 2007. There are several factors that contribute to these troubling statistics.

Driver error and or speeding are the leading causes of teen driver crashes.

Additionally, the use of cell phones, texting, food and beverage consumption and loud music are also key components in teen vehicle crashes.

In fact, a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that driver distraction contributes to 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.

By encouraging teenage drivers to adopt safe driving habits, manage peer-to-peer interactions while in a vehicle and reinforcing the need to detect and react to hazards more appropriately, they will be better prepared to drive responsibly.

We must reinforce the idea that once a vehicle is in motion, the driver must devote his or her full attention to the task at hand, which is operating the vehicle safely.

The hundreds of young lives lost on Kentucky highways, and thousands nationwide, represent far more than just statistics. These are sons and daughters and brothers and sisters whose families will never again cheer their loved ones on from the sidelines of a sporting event or experience the pride and joy of watching them walk across the stage at graduation.

Please take this opportunity to talk to your teens about safe driving habits. No family should have to incur the heartache that so many families across the country feel every year.