Tips from a teen on driving safely through the year

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By The Staff

Maybe I have no right to tell people about how they should drive their car.  After all, I am only 17.  

On a daily basis, my route may take me on unoccupied back roads to the woods or to the river, through the basic small town traffic of Chiefland or possibly the congested highways to Gainesville and Tallahassee.

I typically drive myself to and from school five times a week and to my job in Cedar Key or Fowler’s Bluff three to five times a week.  I may also drive to Gainesville two or three times a month and to Tallahassee once every couple of months. This being said, I easily drive at least a hundred miles a week.

Wherever I’m going, I normally find that I’m driving on 55 mph, two-lane roads that are bordered by trees.  Becoming distracted for even an instant can cause a single-car accident.  Although I have only been on America’s roads for a little over a year, I think I know a thing or two about driving safely, considering that throughout my year of driving, I have maintained a perfect driving record.

Nearly 5,000 teenage brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons died in 2007 due to automobile accidents, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.  This easily makes car accidents the No. 1 cause of all teenage fatalities  (www.odc.gov, 2005).  

Most teens know that cars are the No. 1 cause of death among young drivers. But we’re teenagers, we’re invincible, right?  Wrong.  I can honestly say that in my first few months of driving, the thought never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t make it to my destination or that something could happen to my friends.

I remember one night a few years ago when my boyfriend and I, along with two other couples went to Hallo Scream at Busch Gardens-Tampa all piled into one Dodge pick-up truck.  We spent an entire evening running through haunted houses and facing monsters.  As you can imagine, the other two girls and myself were terrified of the many monsters inhabiting the park, but not the boys, they were fearless and nothing could hurt them.  

Unfortunately, one of the boys, my boyfriend at the time, was wrong.  We all made it home safely but the next morning while driving down an unlit back road on the way to the woods, he ran off the road and totaled his truck.  Luckily for him, he walked away from the accident with only a split lip.

This was especially lucky because he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.  Unfortunately, his 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 wasn’t so lucky after flipping through the air.   This event had nothing to do with his driving capability.  He was a good driver.  But it made me realize that accidents can happen to anyone.  They could even happen to you or me.

Even though there is nothing that we can do to eliminate traffic accidents altogether, there are steps that we can take to increase our chances of arriving home safely.  For example, I never speed, I always make sure that my car is in working order, and if my car is running, my seatbelt is buckled.

The first tip that I can give you for driving safely is, don’t speed.  I personally do not speed while driving and have never even been pulled over for the offense, but I know several teen drivers that commit this violation frequently.  Driving over the speed limit increases our chances of an accident because, especially in an emergency, driving too fast gives us less reaction time.  At any level of experience, having time to react can’t hurt when you find yourself in a pressing situation.  

Another tip that I can give you is to avoid driving in the middle of the night.  Statistics show teenagers are more likely to crash at night than during the day with 18 percent of young driver accidents taking place between 9 p.m. and midnightt and 25 percent between midnight and 6 a.m. (iihs.org, 2009).  

Remember , the next time you’re driving that you are not invincible.  Be careful, don’t become another statistic.

Editor's note: Erika Drimmond is a senior at Chiefland High School and Watermelon Festival queen for 2009.