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For Release: October 7, 2010
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

State Health and the Highway Safety Office Encourage Teens to Drive Safely
CDC Says Motor Vehicle Crashes Cause More than One in Three Teen Deaths

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office have joined forces to encourage safe driving practices by teen drivers and their passengers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, accounting for more than one in three teen deaths. In 2009 in Oklahoma, 37 teen drivers 15 to 19 years of age died in motor vehicle crashes.

“Teenage drivers are typically involved in crashes more often than any other age group, so we’re very concerned,” said Scott Watkins, director of the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. “National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 17-23, is a great opportunity for us to encourage young drivers and their parents to be aware of the issues contributing to those numbers.”

Driver inexperience combined with speeding, not wearing seat belts, drinking and driving, and distracted driving are some behaviors which contribute to teen crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Parents are the key to safe teen drivers,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “Before you hand over the car keys, talk with your teen about staying safe behind the wheel. Make certain your teen understands your concern and that you expect your teen to obey the rules of the road and to stay focused on driving, including no cell phone use to talk or text while driving.”

Behaviors that increase the risk of crash death among teen drivers include:

  • Speeding. According to the CDC, teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to speed. In Oklahoma in 2009, speeding was the most common factor contributing to crashes involving teen drivers.
  • Seat Belt Use. When compared to other age groups, NHTSA reports that the lowest seat belt use is observed among teens and young adults. Of the teen drivers who died in Oklahoma in 2009, 47 percent were unrestrained.
  • Alcohol Use. Teenagers are at a greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash according to NHTSA. Among 16- to 19-year-old drivers in Oklahoma who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2009, 14 percent were impaired by alcohol.
  • Distracted Driving. Cell phone use and texting while driving are emerging trends observed nationally among drivers. The National Safety Council reports that cell phones are the number one driver distraction. According to the Pew Research Center, 34 percent of teens age 16 to 17 who text, report sending or reading a text message while driving. Fifty-two percent of cell phone owners ages 16 to 17 report they have talked on a cell phone while driving.

The OSDH and the Oklahoma Highway Safety offer the following tips to help parents promote safe teen driving habits:

  • Make sure your teen always wears a seat belt.
  • Set firm penalties for alcohol use and lack of seatbelt use.
  • Extend your teen's supervised driving period.
  • Enforce Oklahoma’s Graduated Driver Licensing laws:
    • Only one passenger is permitted unless passengers live in the teen’s home or teen is accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years of age or older.
    • Driving is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless teen is accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years of age or older or is driving to/from school, school activities, church, or work.
    • Cell phone use and texting while driving is prohibited, unless there is an emergency.
  • Be a good role model while you are driving.

Additional information on teen driver safety can be found on the following Web sites:

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Teen_Drivers/index.html

NHTSA: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Teen-Drivers

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