Keeping Teens Safe Behind the Wheel

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

Just minutes after the final bell at DeWitt High School, chaos takes over the parking lot, as hundreds of students take to the streets. Plenty of them have only had their license for a few months. Some, a few days.

"Everyone knows that when you're 16, your license is one of the biggest parts of high school," said 16-year-old Keaton Sackett, who has had his license for about six months.

Even though Sackett is a careful driver, he admits everyone has their moments.

"There's times when you feel like nothing can stop you, you're invincible," he said. "It's just part of being a teenager. It goes through your mind."

Lt. Vern Elliott says the invincibility factor, coupled with inexperience, is a big reason why young drivers are involved in about 25 percent of all accidents.

"As the speed increases, so does the risk and the faster you go, the faster things go bad," he said. "Watch your distractions. Watch how loud you have your radio turned. Cell phones are also a big one."

For first-year drivers, rules like not being able to drive between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not having more than one passenger under 21 in the car can keep the dangerous moments to a minimum. But the real prevention starts at a young age.

"They learn from watching what you do as a parent, so just make certain that when you're out there driving with your kids, you're following all the laws of the road."

Before getting that license, there are some signs to watch out for, like jerky turns, stops and starts. It could make all the difference.

The Michigan Sheriffs' Association program called 'S.T.O.P.P.E.D.' allows parents to be notified when their child is pulled over. The Ingham County Sheriff's Office says it could also help prevent accidents. To sign up, call (800) 875-5500 or visit the Michigan Sheriffs' Association website.

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