Idaho teenagers account for one out of every four car crashes, even though they represent a much smaller fraction (7 percent) of the state’s driving population. Overall, teens age 15-19 are more than twice as likely to be involved in crashes as all other drivers, according the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS).
To help fight this problem, an OHS-sponsored Web site is designed to counter this trend by promoting safe driving practices among teens.
The site, XTR4.com Teen Driver (“Xtra Training Resource for teens”), combines education and entertainment to prepare young drivers for their exams, help them better understand the principles behind Idaho’s driving laws and ultimately reduce the number of fatal or serious-injury crashes involving teens.
“Reaching teens with safety information is a challenge for a couple of reasons,” said Josephine O’Connor, OHS. “First, teenagers are typically the most difficult audience to reach, especially when it comes to social issues such as driver safety. Second, any communications with them would have to appeal to the teen mindset to be effective.”
The colorful, action-oriented site engages teens and offers the chance to win prizes while furthering their driver education. It received national recognition last month from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
XTR4.com addresses serious issues such as seat belt use and impaired driving. An excerpt from the site reads:
“So you think wearing your seatbelt is inconvenient or uncomfortable? Try strapping a 500-pound pine box to your back and then let’s talk. Every day in Idaho, five people are either killed or seriously injured in traffic crashes. Sadly enough, about one-third of those persons killed over the last six years would still be alive had they simply been wearing their seatbelts. Suddenly that little strap across your chest doesn’t sound so bad after all.”
Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in America, although most parents think drugs and alcohol pose a bigger threat, according to a recent survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In the survey, 56 percent of respondents named drug abuse as the leading health threat teens face, with only 13 percent identifying teen driving crashes as the number one risk. In reality, more teens sustain fatal and serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes than through any other high-risk activity. Nationwide, more than 6,000 teens die each year of injuries resulting from car crashes, according to NHTSA.
Seventy-two percent of drivers age 15-19 who died in crashes in Idaho from 2001 to 2003 were reportedly not wearing seat belts. Approximately 55 of them could be alive had they been buckled up, according to NHTSA. In Idaho, seat belt use is lowest among males 18-24 years old. Teen fatality rates are lower in states with primary seat belt laws.
During its first six months, XTR4.com reportedly had more than 5,000 hits and 90 percent of the visitors registered with the service.
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