Parents, teens can help raise safe driving skills | GUEST OP

By Way Scarff
For the Reporter

National Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 20-26. This year's theme is "It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving."

As an automotive industry professional, I hear too many horror stories. Being a parent of three, just passed teenage years, it helps me stay focused on advocacy for safety education.

I hope parents realize that they are still the most important resource to ensuring their children's driving safety.

In our state, drivers age 20 and younger were involved in more than 23,000 crashes in 2010, resulting in 72 fatalities and nearly 8,000 injuries, according to the Department of Transportation.

According to teendriversource.org, administered by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), here are some ways parents can work with their teens with the goal of raising safe skilled drivers:

• Advocate for 65-plus hours of supervised driving practice. Keep a driving log and a driving lesson timeline to ensure that young drivers get lots of varied practice and careful monitoring.

• Make sure parents teach their kids critical driving skills. A recent CHOP study found that 75 percent of serious teen crashes were caused by critical teen driver error, with the most common errors being excessive speed, distractions and failure to detect hazards.

• Develop house rules for the first year of independent driving. The teendriversource.org can help you with this.

The auto industry is constantly working to do its part with teen driver safety: Many Ford vehicles offer MyKey technology, which allows parents to program a key that limits, among other things, the top speed and audio volume, when their teens are driving.

In the Puget Sound area, Ford has also offered Driving Skills for Life, a hands-on teen-driving safety program created in conjunction with the Governors Highway Safety Association and a panel of safety experts.

Still, the most effective resource is parental involvement.

Way Scarff is owner of Scarff Ford in Auburn (www.scarfffordauburn.com).

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