Teen driving vital for rural areas, but there's a caveat

Friday, October 19, 2018

Teenage years are an exciting time for kids and their parents, and school and extracurricular activities are an important part of helping them become productive adults.

Parents, especially in rural areas like McCook, may breathe a sigh of relieve when the first kid gets a drivers license and can drive himself to events without the parent taking time off, but they know there are expenses and risks involved.

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined just how risky teenage driving is, especially when other teenagers are passengers.

And that’s not just the teens in the car who are in danger.

The fatality rate for all people involved in a crash increased 51 percent when there were teen drivers and passengers involved.

By contrast, when passengers 35 or older were present, overall fatality rates in crashes decreased 8 percent.

Mechanisms are in place to make teen driving safer — if parents help enforce the rules when a teen applies for a School Permit, Learner’s Permit or Provisional Operator Permit.

Nebraska teens with a School Permit may only transport family members who live with them to the school attended by the holder.

A Provisional Operator Permit holder is limited to one passenger younger than 19 who is not an immediate family member, for the first six months.

We’re sure many parents are not aware of those restrictions, or ignore them for convenience if they do.

AAA reports that in 2016, teen drivers were involved in more than a million police-reported crashes, resulting in more than 3,200 deaths.

The research shows that when teens were carrying teen passengers, fatality rates jumped 56 percent for occupants of other vehicles, 45 percent for the teen driver and 17 percent for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This analysis shows that, in crashes where teen drivers are behind the wheel with a teen passenger, a larger portion of those killed are other road users, Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“This study also found the fatality rate of a teen-driver-related crash increased when factors like speeding or driving at night were introduced.

While farm kids may start driving earlier than their city cousins, most teens simply lack the “windshield time” that makes them competent to operate a vehicle on Interstate 80 or even long stretches of lonely two-lane blacktop.

TeenDrivers.AAA.com has some good tips to supplement legal requirements:

— At least 100 hours of supervised practice before driving solo.

— Begin in low-risk situation and gradually more to highways, nighttime, rain and challenging roads.

— Different routes each practice session.

— Adjusting speed to visibility, traffic and conditions.

Nebraska Graduated Driver Licensing laws, for teens 14-17, require them to hold a Provisional Operator Permit license for a year before receiving an unrestricted license.

Graduated Driver Licensing laws include:

— No use of any type of interactive wireless communications device while driving.

— All riders wearing seatbelts.

— No midnight to 6 a.m. driving for holding a POP unless to or from school activities or work.

— Zero alcohol tolerance.

Violations can result in a suspended or revoked license, and drivers under 21 who accumulate six or more points in a year are required to take a driver improvement course within three months.

While it may be convenient to allow a young teenage driver to carpool with other teens, parents are wise to consider alternatives.

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