Nebraska needs work when it comes to teen driver safety

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Nebraska is a great place to raise a family, but we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to keeping our teen drivers safe.

According to a WalletHub study (http://bit.ly/28LjlRb), Nebraska ranks near the bottom judging by 23 key metrics such as the number of teen driver fatalities, average cost of car repairs and impaired-driving laws.

It’s especially important to keep teen safety in mind this time of the year, the most dangerous months to be on the road. We’re always saddened to learn of young people seriously injured or killed shortly after prom or graduation — tragic reminders that teens aren’t as indestructible as they may feel.

Nebraska is in the middle of the pack when it comes to teen driver fatalities per teen population, 17 in the nation, with 1 being best and 25 average.

But we’re 48th in teen DUIs, 45th in distracted-driving/texting-while-driving laws, 36 in teen driver’s graduated licensing program laws, 31st in vehicle miles traveled per capita and 28th in presence of occupant-protection laws.

We don’t know specifics for our state’s ranking, but we can speculate.

We’re a large state with few people, and unless you live in Lincoln or Omaha, that results in a lot of travel for everyday activities such as going to school and sporting events.

You’ve probably encountered cars with a “student driver” sign cruising local streets, but drivers education is too difficult or expensive for many families to complete.

Combine all that travel time with distracted driving and the prevalence of teen DUIs in the state, and it isn’t hard to see why we have a problem. Plus, we’ve seen far too many deaths or injuries involving teens in pickup trucks failing to wear seatbelts.

Have a talk with your teen drivers and set some rules to keep them safe:

— Keep your cell phone off. Studies show using a cell phone while driving — even a hands-free phone — is the equivalent of driving drunk.

— Don’t text. All Nebraska drivers can be fined $200 for first-offense texting while driving, with loss of three points from their drivers license. That includes any time you’re on the road, even at a stop light.

— Turn on your headlights to increase your visibility.

— Obey the speed limit. Speed is a major contributor in fatal teen accidents, especially in roads with a lot of traffic or which they’re not familiar.

— Don’t eat or drink, flip around the radio or play loud music when you should be concentrating on the road. Young, inexperienced drivers are much more likely to overlook danger or lose control.

— Drive alone, risks of accident increase with each additional teenage passenger.

— Practice defensive driving. Be aware of traffic ahead, behind and beside you, and maintain buffer zones appropriate for speeds.

— If possible, drive a car with the latest safety equipment such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, air bags, lane control, etc.

Dangers like deer on the highway and long, boring highways can’t always be avoided, but we can still do our part to make sure our teen drivers arrive safely.

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