Our Opinion: Use National Teen Driver Safety Week as springboard for family conversation

October 18th, 2016 8:13 pm - updated: 8:18 pm.

Be straight with the teenage drivers in your house about the risks they face on the road, but spare them any unnecessary drama and scare tactics.

That’s our advice to parents and guardians of young adults during this week, billed as National Teen Driver Safety Week.

The yearly awareness-raising campaign – promoted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other advocates – provides you with a good opening to have a conversation with your child about his or her habits behind the wheel.

Mention that you heard about the campaign, then perhaps drop this oft-repeated fact: Vehicle crashes represent the leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds. Don’t belabor the point. Focusing on the potential loss of life and limb “can be overwhelming and cause teens to shut down,” according to teendriversource.org, a project of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.

“Research shows that teens understand they are vulnerable and are well aware of many risks,” the website states. “So, focusing on positive actions teens can take to be safe and to keep their friends safe can be a powerful message for teens.”

The Highway Administration urges you to drive home these five safety rules:

• No cellphones.

• No extra passengers.

• No speeding.

• No alcohol.

• Buckle up.

J.D. Power and Associates, the provider of vehicle ratings and research, has posted an online article this month with other safe-driving reminders related to teen motorists. (Among our favorites: “Parents need to be good driving role models because they are the most important influence on their teens’ driving habits.”)

Using humor in your brief talk could help it to gain traction. For example, the following teen-driving tip touted at justdrivepa.org, a website of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, might draw a chuckle: “Don’t drive like you own the road. Drive like you own the car.”

PennDOT officials aim to reduce the annual number of deaths in the state resulting from vehicle crashes from 1,413 in 2010 to 706 by 2030. Achieving that goal depends in no small part on people like you taking the time to emphasize sensible rules of the road to the state’s newest drivers.

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