Col. Assumpico urges teen drivers to avoid distractions, turn off cell phones
Each day, an average of six teenagers die in motor vehicle crashes in the United States and 600 others are injured, according to federal statistics. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motor vehicles crashes are the number one cause of teenage deaths nationwide.
With this being national Teen Driver Safety Week, Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Safety, is encouraging parents and teens to work together to help keep Rhode Island’s youngest drivers safe.
“Teenage drivers need to be extra vigilant when they’re behind the wheel,” Colonel Assumpico said.
Rhode Island laws already restrict or prohibit other forms of distraction for young drivers, by limiting the number of passengers new drivers can have in their cars and prohibiting all cell phone use by anyone under age 18. Additionally, teen drivers should avoid other types of distractions as well, such as eating or drinking while driving or playing music too loudly.
Here are some other reminders for teen drivers:
Always wear a seatbelt, and make sure passengers do, as well. A NHTSA study shows that 60 percent of teens ages 16 to 20 who die in fatal crashes, were not wearing seatbelts at the time.
Slow down. Speed was found to be a contributing factor in about one-third of all teen traffic deaths nationwide.
Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drinking under age 21 is illegal, so any amount of alcohol consumed by someone under age is considered driving under the influence.
Turn off your cell phone. Many states, including Rhode Island, prohibit drivers under age 17 from using cell phones. It also is illegal to text and drive in Rhode Island and most other states.
Drive solo. Studies also show that teens driving with passengers in their car are more likely to take risks and be distracted, and the risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases with every additional passenger.
Colonel Assumpico notes that parents also play a critical role in keeping teen drivers safe. They should spell out their expectations, including zero tolerance for drug and alcohol use. Parents also should consider setting curfews for their young drivers, given that most fatal crashes involving young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and 12 midnight.
Most important, the Colonel said, is for parents to practice what they preach and set a good example each time they’re behind the wheel by buckling up, driving safely and avoiding distractions such as talking or texting while driving.