Teenagers and Driving: A Deadly Equation

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This crash scene was staged recently in the parking lot of Rockville High School in Rockville, Md., i

This crash scene was staged recently in the parking lot of Rockville High School in Rockville, Md., as part of "Every 15 Minutes," a two-day program designed to scare teens into not driving drunk. Kathy Schalch, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Kathy Schalch, NPR
This crash scene was staged recently in the parking lot of Rockville High School in Rockville, Md.,

This crash scene was staged recently in the parking lot of Rockville High School in Rockville, Md., as part of "Every 15 Minutes," a two-day program designed to scare teens into not driving drunk.

Kathy Schalch, NPR
Capt.  Peggy Miller applies makeup to senior Travis Blair to create injuries i

Capt. Peggy Miller, of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, helps stage the make-believe accidents by layering on stage makeup to create bruises, gashes and compound fractures. Here, she works on senior Travis Blair. Kathy Schalch, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Kathy Schalch, NPR
Capt.  Peggy Miller applies makeup to senior Travis Blair to create injuries

Capt. Peggy Miller, of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, helps stage the make-believe accidents by layering on stage makeup to create bruises, gashes and compound fractures. Here, she works on senior Travis Blair.

Kathy Schalch, NPR

State-by-State Comparison

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. Each year, more than 5,000 high school-aged kids die on the road. The problem confounds parents, teachers and researchers, who have not yet found effective methods to improve the grim statistics.

One approach is "Every 15 Minutes," a high school program designed to scare kids away from driving drunk by staging simulated accidents and trying to show students what it would be like to die.

Sheriff Ted Paxton of Forsyth County, Ga., says a critical factor in combating the problem is parental involvement. He advises parents to set parameters for their teen drivers.

He's seen a lot of crash scenes during his career, Paxton said; during a three-week period in 2005, six teens died.

"Parents sometimes want to be their teenagers' friend. They've got plenty of friends; they need parents," Paxton says.

Rob Foss, director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says parents can make a big difference in their teens' education as young drivers.

Foss says it is important for beginning drivers to practice as much as possible and in the safest conditions possible. And parents should not allow their teenagers exclusive use of a car, he says. Sharing a family car keeps the parents and child actively engaged and also cuts down the amount of driving a teen does.

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