Dangerous period for young drivers

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HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH)- The auto club AAA is sending out a warning to teenage drivers and their parents as the summer months approach. The club labels the period the ‘100 Deadliest Days’.

There are more teenagers on the road between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and their lack of driving experience can make them a danger to themselves, and others. Experienced drivers know there are so many dangers and distraction behind the wheel, but this time of year, younger drivers are getting out of school and heading out on the road.

“It’s the first day I’m going to be driving. I’m pretty nervous,” said 18 year-old Rachel Altamirano of Waterford, as she showed up for her driving lesson at The Next Street, a driving school in Watertown.

There is a lot for teen drivers to be nervous about. The AAA says this time of year new, teen drivers are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash. Summer means time off, beach parties, and more driving for the drivers with the least experience.

“It’s a big responsibility to be driving and you should take it pretty seriously,” explained Dave Backer of The Next Street. “But if you train properly, learn to do the right things, you’ll know what to do.”

Experts like the instructors at The Next Street driving school in Watertown know that there are more distractions than ever behind the wheel. The AAA found almost 70% of teens admit to talking on a cell phone while driving in just the past 30 days, and more than half admit to reading a text or email while driving. Plus, passengers can be the biggest distraction. A young driver’s risk of being killed in a crash quadruples with 3 young passengers in the car, doubles with two young passengers, and increases by 44% with one young passenger. It decreases by 62% when an adult is in the car.

“Kids have to learn how to drive eventually and, as parents, you just try to make it as safe as possible,” said Barbara Altamirano. For her, that meant getting her daughter Rachel expert instruction.

Simple things like obeying the speed limit and using a seat belt lower the risk of teen driving crashes significantly. Mostly, however, teens just need experience to feel more comfortable behind the wheel.

“You have to look at all the mirrors, you have to look behind you and crossing over, and you have to look at how fast you’re going,” Rachel said, getting more nervous. “You need like 5 pairs of eyes to look at all this stuff.”

Experts say the key to keeping a young driver safe is to have an ongoing conversation with him or her about safe driving. Also, remember, they learn their driving habits by watching adults behind the wheel, so teach by example.

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