How to keep your teen safe behind the wheel

Traffic makes its way in the rain on Highway 101 toward the Golden Gate Bridge Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Sausalito, Calif. The most powerful El Nino storm yet this week pushed onto the California coast Wednesday. Driving rain inundated the San Francisco Bay Area during the morning commute, causing nearly two dozen crashes, toppling trees and flooding streets and streams.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A Christmas gift could turn into a Christmas nightmare if not careful…especially if that gift comes with four wheels and freedom. As teens hit the road in their new cars, they are at a higher risk of getting in a car accident.

And for some teens, this Christmas was a day they’ve waited 16 years for, a day they gain not only the key to the ignition, but the key to independence. According to Kay Brodbeck with Mississippi Safety Services, “they’re driving alone, they like the freedom, they aren’t quite as careful as when they have a parent or adult in the seat beside them.”

But that newly gained freedom could come at a price, “when they’re most likely to be in a crash is when they are 16 and 17,” says Brodbeck. But the dangers lurking behind the wheel don’t stop after 17, “there’s more risk taking for 18 and 19 year old’s they feel comfortable with driving really comfortable behind the wheel.”

No matter the age, the risk of death is always present when you get into the driver seat, but for teens studies show the chance to be involved in a crash is higher.

Tawni Basden with UMMC Children’s of Mississippi says, “the number on killer of teens in our country is car crashes.”

“In one year, we had 78 teenagers that died on Mississippi roads,” and that was just in 2015, this year those numbers are nearing the same count, ” says Basden. “January through out the end of November, we’ve already lost 59 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 20.”

And Brodbeck says that’s because of 3 causes, “speeding and impaired driving.” The third is the leading cause of teen fatalities, “because they were either not wearing a seat belt, or not wearing it properly,  but not everyone dies looking at how many were injured Mississippi had 3836 injured teenagers.”

Brodreck says the best way to teach your teens the importance of wearing a seat belt, not driving impaired or speeding, is to lead by example, “they’re going to be doing the same thing that you do, so model behavior that you want to see.”

Along with modeling the correct driving techniques, there are more proactive steps to prepare young drivers, and really drive home the do’s and don’ts on the road, Baden believes “parents have the key roll in that, having that conversation with their teens about what all can happen in a car.”

And what can happen in unfamiliar driving scenarios, Basden says “driving in day time, driving on a rural road, driving on the back roads, driving in traffic heavy, interstate, bad weather, we have snow did we let our teens on the road.”

Teen drivers also need to be familiar with the car they’re driving because every car has different controls. So whether it’s a shiny new car you just gave your teen for Christmas or the family car–being acquainted with the setup is vital.

Because decisions made in an instant can leave a lasting impact, “when someone dies in a car crash it immediately impact their family, the school the community, the students their friends, they wont be their for graduation. it has a serious impact on the ones that are left behind.”

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