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Teaching teens to drive safely

This week is National Teen Driving Safety Week.
A teenager in a car. 

Car crashes are the leading cause of injury and death to teens in the United States.

In 2016, more than 2,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 in the Denver metro were taken to an emergency department for injuries from a car crash, and drivers under age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes, according to the Colorado Hospital Association.

This week is National Teen Driving Safety Week, a time dedicated to educating and raising awareness about teen driver safety.

Susan Goldenstein, prevention education and outreach manager at Children's Hospital Colorado, and Chaparral High School senior Emily Baller are joining 9NEWS at 4 p.m. Wednesday to talk about the biggest distractions teen drivers face and ways of addressing them.

Goldenstein answered a few questions ahead of the interview on what measures parents can take to help develop good driving habits in teens.

Q. Why does the graduated licensing law (GDL) we have in Colorado help teen drivers?

A. The GDL law places restrictions on new drivers, limiting the number of passengers and time of day they can drive. By doing so, key distractions are removed or limited and this helps new drivers focus on driving. With time and experience those restrictions are lifted. It’s kind of like giving them some training wheels. I would encourage parents to learn the nuances of the law and enforce them at home; don’t make exceptions. The restrictions are there to protect our kids, not to hassle them.

Q. What can parents do to help children and teens learn good driving habits?

A. Be a good example themselves. Parents: you MUST exhibit safe driving practices yourself if you expect your teen too. Do not use your phone in the car, not even at stoplights. Put it in the glove box or trunk of your car when driving.

Q. At what age do kids start paying attention to their parents’ driving habits?

A. Very early. Even when they are little and in car seats, they watch your every move. Establish safe car behaviors early with your kids; do not attend to their every want when you’re driving – reaching back to hand them something or picking up a sippy cup is dangerous! And do not use your phone. Teach your children to wait until you get to your destination to give them something or make a call. If it’s something emergent, then pull over to a safe place. You are setting the tone for car safety.

Q. What advice do you have for parents who have a teenager getting ready to start driving?

A. Spend as much time as possible supervising their driving while they have a permit. The law requires teens to log 50 hours w/ a parent or supervisor during the year they hold a permit – it should be much more. Once they get a permit, they need to drive every time you both go somewhere. During this time – parents need to not be distracted themselves; put the phone away, turn off the radio and pay attention to your teen. Having a teen driver myself, I’ve learned that this is priceless quality time with them!

In addition to those tips, CDOT put together a parent/teen driving contract that can help keep new drivers accountable.

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