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State police urges teen motorists to be road responsible

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State police are urging teens to drive with caution as Halloween approaches/ Photo: VDOT

RICHMOND – National Teen Driver Safety Week kicked off Monday, and Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran and Virginia State Police encouraged young people, who are just taking to the roads, to take charge of their safety.

“Every driver has a responsibility to be safe when they are getting on the road, including our newest drivers,” said Governor Northam. “National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great opportunity to ingrain safe driving habits that will stay with our teenagers for the rest of their lives.”

As of Oct. 1, preliminary data in Virginia shows there have been 56 fatalities in crashes involving teen drivers, marking a 36 percent increase over 2017.* Of those traffic deaths, 28 individuals were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.*

“Sadly, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teenagers nationwide, yet this loss of young people’s lives is preventable,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Starting a conversation with teens about safety and responsibility on the road is the first step toward reducing fatalities. We as parents, mentors, and friends need to equip the next generation of drivers with the tools they need to navigate the highway tomorrow by encouraging them to practice safe habits today.”

Among the most significant dangers to teenage drivers are alcohol consumption, lack of seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and driving with passengers in the vehicle.*

As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, VSP joins Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) in encouraging youth and teens to make good choices and celebrate responsibly as part of its statewide Halloween Safety Campaign. This week, schools and youth groups across the Commonwealth are participating in the peer-to-peer campaign in an effort to prevent tragedies on what is supposed to be a fun night for all.

Irresponsible driving behaviors such as underage drinking and driving as well as texting and driving can be even more deadly on Halloween night when young children are out trick-or-treating on neighborhood streets. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 168 drunk-driving fatalities on Halloween Night.** Approximately 44 percent of all fatalities on Halloween Night (6 p.m. Oct. 31 – 5:59 a.m. Nov. 1) were in crashes involving a drunk driver.**

Before getting behind the wheel, teen drivers are urged to limit the distractions in their vehicle, including human ones. Not only does the risk of a fatal crash increase in direct relation to the number of teen passengers in the vehicle, but the likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples.*** Approximately 10 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were distracted at the time of the crash.***

“As a father of two teenagers, teaching responsibility on our roadways is of the utmost importance given the rise of distracted driving,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Emphasizing road safety as a vital part of our overall public safety efforts will continue to be a top priority moving forward.”

As a new driver, operating a vehicle is a big responsibility not only because of the dangers of driving but also the threat of vehicle theft, which affects more than 750,000 people each year.*

Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program encourages parents to teach their new drivers to practice common sense habits that will protect them and their vehicle. Simple things like remembering to take your keys every time you leave your vehicle and never leaving your car unattended with the doors unlocked. The HEAT program teaches a three-layered approach to auto theft prevention, and taking your keys and locking your doors are simple but important steps in vehicle protection.

“A lot of responsibility comes along with becoming a new driver and part of that responsibility is establishing good habits to protect yourself and your vehicle,” said 1st Sgt. Thomas J. Molnar, HEAT program coordinator. “A significant number of vehicles stolen in Virginia still have the keys in the ignition. It’s important for teens to minimize distractions and remember to remove their keys from the ignition and lock the vehicle’s doors every single time.”

In addition to locking your doors and taking your keys, parking in a well-lit area and concealing valuable items can keep your car from becoming a target of thieves. These are all common sense tactics, but are often the things individuals forget to do the most. To create additional layers of vehicular protection, motorists are also encouraged to install audible or visible deterrents, such as VIN etching, and add technology, such as an immobilizer or tracking device.

VIN etching is the process of placing a vehicle’s VIN number on all major areas of glass on the vehicle. This serves as a deterrent to potential thieves because if they remove the VIN number, all the glass will have to be replaced. This is a free service offered by the Virginia State Police HEAT program.

*Source: Virginia Highway Safety Office
**Source: National Center for Statistics and Analysis
***Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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