Parents of teen drivers know how scary it can be to hand over the car keys.

Add in the fact teens are at high risk for traffic crashes and it can be even more stressful. 

 Before giving your teen the “green light” to hit the open road, some advice on how to keep your child from becoming a statistic.

Al Barber is on a mission.  He’s training the next generation of drivers like India Herring.

India is a picture of serenity but on the inside, she’s a bundle of nerves.

“I’m making sure I turn in my lane, turning right or left and making sure I don’t hit the person coming toward me.”

The rain falls gently on the slick pavement as India scans the road and checks the mirrors.      

“We take her out for about 3-5 hours, backing the car up, getting used to the car and then move into more advanced training, changing lanes, U-turns,” says Al. 

India knows the basics but has learned being behind the wheel can bring surprises.

About 3,000 teens are eligible to get their driver’s license every year in Columbus.  Many of those teens have some form of driver education and experience behind the wheel but many don’t.

“We know accidents percent-wise are much lower when someone has had driver’s education in our school than not. National statistics say 65% of all beginning drivers will wreck their car in the first 6 months.  That’s extremely high.”  

That number isn’t the only one causing concern.  

 According to the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.

Research shows in 2015, 173 fatalities involving children 19 and younger were blamed
on motor vehicle crashes.

For each mile driven, teens from 16-19 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash compared with older drivers.

Research also shows a majority of teen passenger deaths happen when another teen is driving. 

For every teen in the U.S. who is killed in a vehicle crash, about 100 more are hurt.

The numbers are similar in Alabama.

According to “Alabama Public Health,”  vehicle deaths in Alabama account for almost half
of preventable deaths for those under 18.  

Harris Blackwood with the “Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety” blames inexperience and distractions for causing too many crashes and too many deaths. 

“They think they’re invincible.  They think they can multi-task, can have that conversation and drink a soft drink and talk on the phone while driving a car and that invincibility sometimes leads to a high rate of speed and a crash.”

Other common causes of teen driving crashes include:  driving at night, speeding and street racing, not wearing a seatbelt, and using alcohol or drugs.     

Sharlenor Whatley with “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” sees it all too often.

She’s there to help those who are left behind pick up the pieces. 

“I work with these families every single day and I try to explain to families I can provide resources but I can’t bring your loved one back.”

Al does his part to keep teens safe behind the wheel but says it’s up to parents to keep their teens in check.

“Know where they’re going and who they’re with and by doing that, you may not be the most popular parent but you’ll be the one that’s safety-minded and the best thing you can do is keep a tight rein on them.”

India says it takes more than just doing her part.  She says everyone needs to be aware and do their part as well.

“You can only do what you’re supposed to do in a car but the driver on the other side of you might do something and cause you to get into an accident and it wasn’t your fault at all.” 

India and Al return from another session of hands-on learning.  Al has this advice for new drivers.

“The best thing I can tell you is treat it with the greatest respect as if it’s a loaded weapon and if you keep that in your mind at all times, you’ll probably be okay out there.”

 Wise words to keep in mind before giving your teen the “green light” to get behind the wheel. 

For more information on keeping your teens safe on the road, click here: