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A call to young drivers: Be your own best advocate for safety!


Tue, Jun 8th 2021 07:00 am

Summer months are the most deadly & dangerous for young drivers

Guest Editorial by New York SADD

New York SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) is issuing a statewide call to action to combat the deadliest season for young people – the summer months. Known as the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the time when young people lose their lives most frequently in car crashes, as well as other destructive decisions. SADD is calling upon teens, caring adults, law enforcement, and the community at large to raise awareness and take action to help keep our young drivers safe.

The summer months are of particular concern for young drivers – more hours spent on the roads and an array of distractions in their vehicles, including additional passengers. According to the New York State Department of Health, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional deaths and hospitalizations for teens ages 16 to 17 in New York state. Of all fatal crashes for ages 16-17 years old that occur annually in New York state, 30% happen during the months of June, July and August. At least six teen drivers in New York are treated in this state every day for complications from a vehicle crash.

Due largely to driver inexperience, young people are often more likely to disobey safety laws, not wear a seat belt, drive at unsafe speeds, and be distracted behind the wheel by devices or extra passengers. The leading causes of crashes in this age group continue to be distracted driving (technology and passengers), impaired driving (drugs, alcohol and drowsiness), unsafe speed, and reckless behaviors. Combined with overwhelming driver inexperience, it is clear why car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death and injury for young people. According to the CDC, teen drivers between the ages of 16-19 are three times more likely than drivers 20 and older to be involved in a deadly crash.

“We often do not view traffic safety as a public health issue, but it clearly is when we see the numbers of crashes our teens are experiencing on our roads – particularly the fatal and serious injury crashes that can be avoided,” says Lauren Zimmerman-Meade, regional manager for SADD. “Our ask is clear to young drivers: Slow down, pay attention, ditch the devices, and buckle your belts in every seat of every vehicle, every time you get in a car.

“We need our teens and young drivers to stand up and be their own best advocates. If you see someone being unsafe, speak up, ask them to put on their seat belts, and be sure they’re keeping chatter or music to a minimum, allowing the driver to concentrate.

“As of November 2020, New York law requires all drivers and passengers to be buckled in all seats of the vehicle, regardless of age, so this is a great time for our young people to be setting the right example and encouraging others to ‘Rock the Belt.’ This is a great season for our caring adults to get out there and teach your young drivers the best ways to navigate the road in front of them and teach them to drive safely and defensively. It’s never too early to model great driving behaviors or teach your teens about road safety.”

To kick off the focus on teen driver safety this summer, New York SADD and SADD National will be hosting a road trip-themed social media campaign all summer long, with unique tips in various States across our region and nation. We encourage all to tune in for our upcoming posts and videos and share with those you care about to help keep our roads safer this summer and all year long. SADD also urges young drivers and caring adults to review and sign our “Contract for Life,” an important document that lays the groundwork for critical conversations around driver safety and ensuring that there is always a safe way home, so our young people do not feel the pressure to ride with an impaired driver.

SADD encourages teens to take the lead in sharing the safe driving message and has created a complete campaign of activities, volunteer opportunities, scholarships and more to raise awareness and empower young people. We also offer free workshops and a speakers bureau of survivor advocates willing to work with your group or agency to share the importance of safe driving and the consequences of the dangerous decisions we can make behind the wheel. You can learn more about these programs and graduated drivers licensing laws, upcoming events, youth leadership opportunities, mental health resources, volunteer opportunities and more on our website at ny.sadd.org.

Since 1981, SADD, the nation’s premier youth health and safety organization, has worked to empower teens, engage parents, mobilize communities, and change lives around the issues of traffic safety, substance abuse, and personal health and safety. Through a national network of peer-led chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges, SADD equips our students with the resources they need to advocate for change on their campuses and in their communities. Join the movement by visiting www.sadd.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

For more information and resources on teen driver safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving.

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