Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens in America, and the most frequent causes are distracted and reckless driving. To put the brakes on the high number of young casualties, the Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA) and Impact Teen Drivers, a public awareness and education program focusing on distracted and reckless driving, partnered with NASCAR’s Bill McAnally Racing, California Causality and Get Real Behind the Wheel to deliver life-saving educational materials to teens, parents, teachers, and community members. Teens were able to experience real-time driving scenarios behind the wheel of a controlled track at Avondale Toyota/Scion on November 12th.

The event offered not only awareness and educational information, but the hands-on opportunity for teens to drive on a controlled course and the raceway.  The purpose was to stress the importance of parental involvement in the teen driving experience and to help teens choose to make better decisions behind the wheel.

“Law enforcement too commonly encounters teens driving too fast, are not buckled up, or are distracted behind the wheel by friends, phone calls, or texting,” states Jimmy Chavez, President of the AHPA.  “We hope this hands-on educational day really helps parents and teens understand this is a collective effort to keep our roadways safe for everyone.”

Impact Teen Drivers has collected these alarming recent statistics:

  • Teen driver crashes are the leading cause of death for our nation’s youth. The overwhelming majority of these crashes are caused by inexperience or distractions, not “thrill-seeking” or deliberate risk-taking.
  • In the National Young Driver Survey, 20 percent of 11th grade drivers reported at least one crash over the past year, while nearly 3 percent experienced two or more crashes.
  • Crashes are more common among young drivers than any other age group. In the United States, 1 in 4 crash fatalities involve someone 16 to 24 years old, nearly twice as high as other age groups.
  • The fatality rate for drivers ages 16 to 19, based on miles driven, is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 69.
  • The crash fatality rate (crash fatalities/100,000 population) is highest for 16- to 17-year-olds within the first six months after licensure – and remains high through age 24.
  • Approximately two-thirds of teen passenger deaths (ages 13 to 19) occur when other teenagers are driving.
  • Child passengers (under age 16) driven by teenagers (ages 16 to 19) have three times the risk of injury in a crash than children driven by adults. Overall, 9 percent of child fatalities occur with a driver under age 19.
  • Older child passengers, ages 12 to 17, are more likely to die in a car crash than younger children. This risk increases with each teenage year. The top three predictors for fatality are nonuse of restraints, teen drivers and roads with speed limits of 45 mph or higher. (Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, March 2008)

The program not only included a teen driving course, but powerful testimonials and educational materials for everyone.  Teens and parents heard from Ken Ucci.  His family suffered the loss of a lifetime on January 27, 2007, his 17-year-old son, Michael William Ucci, was killed when the car he was riding in slammed into a light pole in front of his high school. The young man driving the car was speeding. It is estimated that they were traveling approximately 80 mph. Bret Clifton, the driver, lost both legs and two passengers in the back seat, including Michael’s sister, were also seriously injured.  Impact Teen Drivers also gives a short presentation for teens and parents regarding the importance of making good decisions behind the wheel.  “This isn’t about bad kids doing bad things, but good kids making poor choices behind the wheel,” said Dr. Kelly Browning, Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers.  “This isn’t about strangers killing our youth-this is about kids dying at the hands of people that care about them-their friends or siblings.”

Thank you for all members who participated in this wonderful event.  We look forward to doing this again next year.

Article written by/or information provided by AHPA

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