Yesterday, I was honored to be part of the Safe Kids Countdown2Drive kick-off.
Countdown2Drive is a smart idea--it's a program to educate young teens and their parents about safe driving well before the teen is ready to drive legally. With easy-to-use online materials, it is designed to help teens learn safe driving habits as they prepare for the day when they get behind the wheel.
As John Formisano, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide said, “Teen pre-drivers are eager to learn, and they are focused on the freedom a driver’s license and access to a car can provide. By preparing them to be good passengers, Countdown2Drive can help decrease the number of crashes and injuries that occur during their first and most dangerous year of driving."
The stakes couldn’t be higher. More than 350,000 teens were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 and car crashes are the number one killer of children and teens in this country.
Mile for mile, teenagers are four times more likely to be involved in a crash as compared to all other drivers. And, at ages 13 and 14, a teen’s risk of dying while riding with a teenage driver doubles, and continues to rise as they get older.
So National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland and I welcome Countdown2Drive's important emphasis on the vulnerable age group in between young children and young drivers.
But, let's also remember that no program can do this important job alone. We need parents to make it work. The Countdown2Drive program encourages families to establish rules and guidelines well before teens are ready to obtain their licenses.
That's good advice. And as schools begin their winter vacations, we know that teenagers will be logging extra miles in the next few weeks--whether as drivers or as passengers. So, please, caution your kids to always buckle up. Remind them to put their cell phones and other devices in the glove compartment when they're driving.
And, most importantly, please remember the best way to reinforce these safety habits is to set a good example.