Editorial: Spring is here: Time for teen safety awareness

The Tribune

Spring is a time of celebration in high school. Proms are scheduled, and graduation is just around the corner.

But in this season of celebration, bad decisions can lead to tragedy and a lifetime of sadness.

One of the riskiest activities teenagers are involved in is driving.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2,700 teens in the United States aged 16 to 19 were killed in 2010 and almost 282,000 were treated at emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.

Two of the biggest factors in fatal wrecks were alcohol and distracted driving. The CDC estimated that more than a fifth of teen fatalities were a result of drinking and driving.

Distracted driving also accounts for a significant number of traffic wrecks. The National Safety Council estimates that at least 28 percent of motor vehicle crashes in 2008, 1.6 million accidents, were a result of cell phone use and texting.

One study reported that text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted, while another found that using a cellphone while driving delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood-alcohol concentration at the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Some of the reports are pretty eye-opening. While texting and driving, 5 seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.

But these aren’t the only problems. Sleepiness can prove just as deadly as drinking. And a long prom weekend can prove quite tiring.

So teens need to take care not to let their joyous mood overpower care and good judgment.

Here are some safety tips teens can use any time, but especially during prom weekend:

  • Let your parents know all your plans ahead of time.
  • Stay with a group of friends throughout the night.
  • Make sure your cellphone is charged before leaving home.
  • Everyone traveling in a vehicle should wear a seat belt.
  • Don’t drink or use drugs, especially if you will be driving. And don’t let friends use them and drive.
  • Don’t text while driving and save the sharing of emailed photos until you have stopped driving.
  • Take extra money in case of emergency.
  • Don’t leave possessions or drinks unattended.

Parents, you don’t get off free, either. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Tell your children you want them to have a wonderful time.
  • Ask for specifics when discussing schedules.
  • Know who will be driving and re-emphasize the danger of drinking and driving.
  • Be reachable at all times.
  • Give children the unconditional option of calling you at any time for help or advice.

With care and planning, prom, graduation parties and other events can be a safe, enjoyable and memorable time. The decisions made on prom night and other times can change lives.

What do you think? What’s your opinion on this topic? Send your comments to ddavis@tribtown.com. You can find copies of earlier editorials online at TribTown.com.

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