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2015-10-15

Talk to your teens about driving, Part II

By Stacy Drury County Extension Agent

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent Stacy Drury reminds parents to take advantage of the National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 18-24) to talk to their teens about staying safe on the road.
Statistics show that teens are most likely to have a crash during the first six months after getting their license, which is primarily due to their inexperience.
A recent study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) reports that drivers ages15-to-17 years old are not only at a disadvantage due to their lack of experience, but also due to the incomplete development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain - the part of the brain that helps weigh the consequences of risky behavior. According to the study's author, Russell Henk, this is the last part of the brain to develop.
TTI also reports that teens are eight times more likely to be in a fatal crash when they are carrying two or more teen passengers. The Texas Graduated Driver's License (GDL) law is designed to limit the number of teen passengers that can legally ride with a novice driver. The GDL provides parents with the controls to help keep their teen drivers safe.
However, many parents are not aware of the provisions of this law, which are divided into two phases. During phase one, the teen driver must always be accompanied by a person at least 21 years of age. During phase two, teens cannot operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger who is younger than 21-years-old, unless the additional passengers are also family members.
Driving is prohibited between midnight and 5 am, unless the teen is driving to attend work or a school-related activity, or responding to an emergency situation.
Cell phone use is also prohibited during both phases of the GDL and for all drivers under the age of 18.
Making sure your teen follows the GDL law can help get a teen safely through the most critical time when driver inexperience can lead to crashes.
Spending as much time driving with your teen in many different driving situations can significantly impact your teen's future driving practices.
• Practice driving with your teen as often as possible.
• Discuss your rules of the road, and create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.
• Model good driving behavior for your teen by always using seat belts and never using a cell phone while driving.
• Share your rules with other parents and teens.