Crashes number one cause of death for teens - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Crashes number one cause of death for teens

January 18, 2005

Albany-- The numbers are staggering. Thousands of teenagers die each year in motor vehicle crashes. In fact, that's the number one cause of death of people between the ages of 15 and 20. Bringing those numbers down may begin with parental involvement.

On Newton Road, officials sweep up the broken glass from yet another wreck. No one was killed, but the scene is often deadly when it comes to teenagers. "Nationally, crash numbers for teens have been very high," says Michele DeMott of Albany Safe Communities.

Just up the road from the wreck, 15-year-old Sara Unger just received her pass to begin learning to drive but she admits the roads scare her. "It's the other people, not me. It's not that I'm not safe, it's the other people," says Unger.

According to Triple A, more than 6,000 teens die each year from crashes across the state. They also injure just as many. A big reason is that teenagers are in a rush to drive. "I was certainly one who wanted to get a license and get that freedom. They want to be behind the wheel," says DeMott.

That's where a big problem lies. New, anxious drivers often drive too fast or follow too closely on the roads, bad habits that should be changed early. Early changes begin with parent involvement.

"Teenagers can't have enough practice with an adult in a car. Certainly 40 hours with the parent is a minimum," says DeMott.

"Look out for the other guy all the time. Use those mirrors, signal when you turn. Watch for those who don't," says Gary Unger. Gary Unger teaches his daughter the simple ways to be safe and he's leading by example. "I've never gotten a ticket for as long as I've had a license," says Unger.

So while Sara has the permit to learn, she'll follow the law when she does finally get behind the wheel. "I'll drive the speed limit. Maybe like two miles over," says Sara.

"Typically, as we get older we have learned from our mistakes," says DeMott. A combination of maturity plus a little parent involvement will reduce the number of deadly scenes on the roads and keep teens safer.

Georgia has some of the toughest teen driving restrictions in the country. There's a graduated licensing process. Teens must abide by a curfew and there's a limit to how many teens a young driver can carry. Experts say those rules have reduced teen fatalities in Georgia.

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