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New Initiative Pushes Safer Driving Habits For Teens

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Washington D.C. played host to the U.S. launch of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month on Tuesday.
Armando Trull
Washington D.C. played host to the U.S. launch of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month on Tuesday.

A push is underway to make this the safest summer ever for teen drivers. Hundreds of thousands of drivers are taking a Safe Driving Pledge as part of the kick-off for Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, committing to avoid reckless behaviors like texting while driving or driving drunk.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 5,000 teens are killed every year in car crashes. Summer in particular proves especially dangerous for teens, as classes end and students hit the roads.

For some, like 17-year-old Darien Jacobs from Upper Marlboro, Md., who lost a cousin to a drunk driver, it's a way to find solace after tragedy.

"All the teens that pledge today are really saying that they are aware of all the consequences and risks they do when they're driving," says Jacobs. "So they know not to text, not to drink, not to do anything to distract them."

It's not just teens who have an incentive to drive more safely, but their parents as well. Lowell Garner of Fairfax lost his 16-year-old son to a car crash: "There's a black spot on my ceiling where I stare every night, and you always wonder what you could have done to prevent it."

To help prevent similar tragedies from occurring, Garner started Project Yellow Light, which awards a $2,000 scholarship to the best travel safety video created by a teen.

While texting remains one of the biggest culprits amongst teen drivers, a new report being released by AAA's Safety Foundation indicates that a teenage driver's risk of dying in an accident increases dramatically when there are other teens in the car, but plummets when there's an adult looking on. The study examined teen crashes between 2007 and 2010.

Compared to driving with no passengers, a 16 or 17-year-old driver's risk of death per mile driven increases 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21, doubles when carrying two passengers younger than 21, and quadruples when carrying three or more passengers that age. Conversely, the risk of a teen driver dying in an accident when a passenger aged 35 or older is in the vehicle decreases 62 percent.

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