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Sep/Oct 2011 Issue

Driving can be deadly for teens, but AAA’s Web site steers teens in a safe direction

As the new school year begins, more teenagers will be hitting the road to get to and from school, including driving on the highway, driving with friends in the car and driving at night for dances and sporting events.

Gaining and enjoying that newfound freedom to drive makes it an exciting time in the life of a teen. But it’s also the most dangerous.

Young drivers, age 15- to 20-years-old, are especially vulnerable to death and injury behind the wheel, with traffic crashes ranking as the leading cause of death for that age group in America. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Although the simple skills of driving like steering, signaling and stopping can be mastered in a few hours, safe driving involves much more. To introduce teens–and parents–to just how much is involved in being safe in the car, AAA developed, a Web site that helps parents and teens manage the complex coming-of-age process. It provides users with specific information based on where they live and where they are in the learning process–from preparing to drive through the learner’s permit and solo driving.

“The learning-to-drive process is intimidating, and following the steps it takes to gain a license can be daunting, but this site simplifies the process and walks users through each stage,” said Mike Right, vice president of AAA Public Affairs. The site, which was introduced last year, 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. Some of the topics covered focus on nighttime driving, distracted driving and alcohol.

Parents will find details about their state’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) system, selecting a driving school and choosing the right vehicle for their teens. And they can download a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that will help teens understand what is expected of them behind the wheel.

“Parent involvement is critical in developing safe teen drivers, and this site can really empower parents, as well as their sons and daughters, as they embark on this new journey together,” Right said.

Driving Test
The first few years of driving after taking their test are the most dangerous for teens.


With new guidelines in place, check your child’s safety seat

Throughout the year, there are national weeks dedicated to soup, gardening, stress awareness and even catfish, but this fall there’s a week that parents can’t afford to overlook on their calendars: Child Passenger Safety Week.

During this week, Sept. 18–24, parents and caregivers are urged to make sure their child safety seats are properly installed and used in their cars, especially considering the new recommendations released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) earlier this year. To help keep children safe, the new guidelines urge parents to keep their children in each restraint type as long as possible before moving up to their next type of seat.

The guidelines, which are consistent with the latest advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), advise caregivers to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. The previous policy had cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum, so parents often turned the seat to face the front when their child celebrated his or her first birthday.

Studies show that children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing seat than a forward-facing seat because it does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine.

After transitioning to a forward-facing seat and reaching the maximum guidelines for that seat, the next step is a booster, which will ensure the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt fit properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly. Most children will need a booster until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.

NHTSA cautions parents to closely follow manufacturer’s guidelines in installing child safety seats because an estimated three out of four are installed incorrectly. The agency also recommends that all children under 13 should ride in the back seat. For a safety seat inspection station near you, click on

baby seat

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