Teen Safety Depends on Following Rules of Road

Teenagers account for seven percent of Kansas drivers, but they're involved in 20-percent of the accidents.

That's why health officials are involved in spreading the safety message to teens.

Stormont-Vail trauma nurse Darlene Whitlock believes there's a simple reason more teens are involved in accidents. She says they're not bad drivers, it's just their inexperience.

Whitlock and other Stormont-Vail TraumaCare staffers are accepting invitations from area schools to do presentations on driving safety. Whitlock says teens first must realize that a vehicle is really a very heavy weapon and driving is a big responsibility.

The key rules of the road for teens boil down to three. First, wear your seat belt. Whitlock says the best protection you have in a crash is to not be ejected and the way to accomplish that is with a seatbelt.

Second, never drink and drive. Not only is is illegal for teenagers to drink alcohol, Whitlock says inexperience and coupled with clouded judgment alters how safe teens can be.

Finally, turn off the electronic devices. Whether it's an MP3 or cell phone, they are distractions and the teen isn't paying attention to the serious responsibility of driving a car.

Lawmakers passed new restrictions that help address the experience question.

Under the changes taking effect Jan. 1, 2010, teens can still get a learners permit to drive with a parent starting at age 14, but teens must have that learners permit for 12 months before they can get a restricted or full license.

In addition, the full license at age 16 will bring restrictions for the first six months a driver has it. Only one non-sibling passenger under age 18 will be allowed; after 9 pm, they may only drive to and from work and school; and all wireless devices will be prohibited.

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