Safe summer driving tips for teens

Friday, July 3, 2009

Receiving a driver's license is one of the most exciting rites of passage in a teen's life. With no school to take up the days, summer is the best time to practice. But the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are also the busiest times on Missouri roads, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation, and the Independence Day weekend is the peak of summertime travel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds. In order to help combat this statistic, here are a few tips to help you keep you and your friends safe out there:

Follow the speed limit. Driving too fast and driving too slow can both be dangerous. Not only will driving the speed limit help you stay in control of your vehicle, it can also help you save gas, which means you save gas money, too.

Avoid distractions. With cell phones, iPods and GPS, you might feel like a pro at multitasking, but driving is not the time for distractions. Taking your eyes off the road for just one second to send a text or change songs can make a huge difference in your response time for avoiding a collision. A new bill is on Gov. Jay Nixon's desk that would make it a crime for drivers younger than 21 to text while at the wheel.

Pay attention to your surroundings. Not only should you pay attention to the road directly in front of you, but make sure to check your rearview and side mirrors regularly. If you're on a residential street, watch for children playing in the road.

Speak up. If you're in a vehicle with a friend who is driving too fast, constantly switching lanes, tailgating or not paying attention to the road, tell him or her you're uncomfortable. They may be trying to impress you, and a simple request will encourage them to stop driving dangerously. If they refuse, ask them to drop you off at a safe location so that you can call someone to pick you up.

Buckle up. According to NHTSA, increasing seat-belt use is the simplest and least expensive way to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the road. In fact, NHTSA found that more than 75,000 lives were saved between 2003 and 2007 by wearing a seat belt. Taking two seconds to buckle up is the simplest action you can take to stay safer on the road. Plus, it's the law in many states.

-- NewsUSA and Chris Harris

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