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I’ve got one and two more on the way. Teens that is…….

Next summer my oldest will take driver’s education. It’s a little scary. I saw an interesting statistic recently that really opened my eyes to what I’m getting myself into. Evidently, your average 16 year old soccer player has 1,500 hours of instruction in soccer by the time they reach that age. But, we’re handing these same kids drivers licenses and unleashing them on the road with only 50-100 hours of instruction.

This is disconcerting for a number of reasons:

1. In 2006, drivers age 15-17 were involved in approximately 974,000 accidents that injured 406,427 people and killed 2,541.

2. Auto accidents are the leading cause of death among U.S. teenagers as it accounts for 36% of all deaths in that age group according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

3. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has claimed that the 16-19 year old age bracket has a greater risk of an accident than any other age group.

4. The risk of an auto accident for a 16 year old is double that of a 18 or 19 year old.

5. This rate of injury for 16 years old increases every time another passenger is placed in the vehicle.

6. Lastly, 33% of teenage drivers are involved in a car crash in their first year of driving and somewhere in the United States, a teenage driver is killed every 6.5 minutes and injured every 55 seconds according to

So what’s a parent to do?

More instruction is one thing. Some options would include:

1. The Mid-Ohio School in Lexington KY which offers a Honda Ten Defensive Driving Program and teaches the dynamics of driving including wet braking techniques, emergency lane change maneuvers, and a skid drill that simulates driving on ice, snow and rain.

2. Tire Rack’s Street Survival Program will be held in 50 cities across the country through November 15th. It costs $60 and is open to permitted and licensed drivers between the ages of 16-21.

3. Driver’s Edge – another touring school which is free and blends classroom and on course driving experience with a focus on real life emergency situation. It was founded by former race driver Jeff Payne.

Another helpful tool to reduce the risk to your teenager is a Graduated Drivers License program. All states have it to some degree, but perhaps your own family implementing one might help even more.

There should be a period where they can only drive under the direct supervision [in the car] of an adult. Then, once you’re comfortable [and the State you live in allows it] allow the teen an intermediate period where they can drive alone under limited circumstances such as during daylight hours and with no passengers. Lastly, when you as the parent are comfortable with your teens skills and maturity behind the wheel, full privileges.

I think the bottom line for parents is you have to be involved. You can’t rely on some course by the State and a few hours behind the wheel to properly prepare your teens for the dangers of driving a vehicle. Know where and when your teens are driving. Get involved. It may be the difference in whether or not your teen sees their 20th birthday.

If any readers have other good ideas for parents, I’d love to hear them.

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