Teen Driver

With high school graduations and summer approaching, many teen drivers will quickly trade their books for brakes, spending more time behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, most families are unaware of the dangers that accompany teen drivers during these months.

Statistically, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, responsible for more deaths each year than drugs, alcohol, suicide and violence combined.

However, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day are especially dangerous, known as the "100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers." To keep teens safe, it is recommended that parents consider the following before handing over the keys this summer:

• Visit AAA's Keys2Drive website, www.teendriving.aaa.com/AZ, to brush up on teen driving laws, and find a wealth of tips and resources aimed at keeping young drivers safe.

The interactive site provides state-specific information based on where teens are in the learning process - from preparing to drive to driving unsupervised.

The site also features AAA StartSmart, a series of online newsletters and webisodes based on the National Institutes of Health's Checkpoints program, which has been scientifically shown to help parents improve teen driver safety.

• Implement a parent-teen driving agreement that clearly spells out rules, conditions, restrictions and consequences of a teen's driving. A sample agreement can also be found on the Keys2Drive website.

• Select a quality driving school. Parents can utilize AAA Arizona's Approved Driving School Network to find a quality driving school in the Phoenix metropolitan area. To view a list of schools, visit www.aaaaz.com/news/traffic/adsn.htm.

• Take advantage of driver training programs. Several programs are available to fit your family's needs and potentially earn you substantial insurance discounts.

To learn more about each driver training program, visit www.aaaaz.com/news/parentsandteens.htm.

• Enroll in a summer class for teen drivers and their parents. Consider taking your young driver to one of our Dare to Prepare workshops. Call (602) 241-2945 for a list of upcoming dates or visit www.teendriving.aaa.com/AZ for an online version of the workshop.

• Drugs and alcohol. Make an agreement with your teen that they will not drive or ride with anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Arizona is a Zero Tolerance state, which means teens cannot have any alcohol in their system.

An offense can lead to a license suspension, hefty fines and installation of an ignition interlock device.

• Buckle up. Make sure your teen wears their seatbelt and knows the importance of buckling up every single time they get into a car.

• Distractions. Limit the number of passengers allowed to ride in your teenager's vehicle to no more than one. Also, discuss the dangers of other distractions with your teen, such as cell phones and music, among others.

By heeding this important advice, you can do much to ensure your teen's lazy days of summer are safer, before he or she returns to hit the books this fall.

• Linda Gorman is communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or lgorman@arizona.aaa.com.

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