The school year has started again and there are a number of new drivers on our streets. These 16-year-olds have worked hard to get those licenses, having passed their behind-the-wheel testing and the written test. License in hand and with the keys to the family car, or if they are lucky, their own car, they head out with our blessings, and our silent prayers that they stay safe. It is hoped that with the instruction they received on driving properly, and the driving with mom or dad, that you, the parents had some serious discussions about the use of alcohol.
Young people today are very much aware of alcohol and its use and abuse. According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, 80 percent of high school juniors and seniors say they had their first drink before the age of 16, and almost 10 percent of this same group had a fake I.D. What really makes one stop and think is the sobering fact that more than 3 million young people in the United States between the ages of 12-20 are dependent on alcohol or abuse alcohol.
Alcohol and driving
We all get tired of hearing statistics, and insurance agencies and government studies have gone to a lot of trouble to make sure the public is aware of the seriousness of driving and drinking. Alcohol and beer manufacturers tout the need for designated drivers in their ads. But, they stop short of really telling young viewers not to drink their products if they’re underage.
The fact of the matter is this; the statistics are true, and based on actual deaths that have occured in car crashes where teenage drivers had been drinking. In Virginia the figures for 2009 show that out of 757 crash deaths involving young drivers, (ages 16-20), 243 or 32 percent were caused by the teen driving drunk. It would be remiss if you, the parents didn’t know that the figures for 2009 are actually an improvement for the state of Virginia.
In 2008, the total number of crash deaths was 824, with 294 involving the teen driver being drunk. As parents, we still have to look at one death as being one too many. Our insurance companies have programs in place that reach out to the teenaged drivers they insure. Most all of them offer some sort of discount on premiums for compliance with the programs their company uses.
State Farm Insurance
Chris Bushong is the agent for State Farm Insurance on Forest Hill Avenue here in West End Richmond. In talking with him, he outlined some of the programs that State Farm has for its teen drivers. Each of the programs could give the insured a 10 percent discount on their car insurance premiums. Bushong pointed out the importance of the teen fully complying with the programs they are using. The programs are as follows;
- Steer Clear Course: The teen and his/her parents must sign this pledge, agreeing to openly talk about the information in a booklet provided. The booklet is a self-study course on developing good driving habits. The teen must also complete the required number of behind-the-wheel trips with one of the parents as a passenger, who then signs off on the road trip.
- Good Syudent Discount: This program requires that the young driver, up to the age of 25, be a full-time student. They then have to meet one of four criteria. They must keep a 3.0 GPA, or be in the top 20 percent of their class, or keep an overall grade of B, or be on the Dean’s list or Honor Roll.
Parents, our teenaged drivers must be given all the tools that we can put at their disposal. Talk is the first tool in your toolkit. Open up a discussion, how you go from there is up to you and your families way of talking things out. Let them know the facts on teen drinking and driving. Check with your insurance agent and find out if they carry any programs that give discounts to young drivers. Discuss them as a family.