Traffic accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for American teenagers.

Traffic accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for American teenagers.


Those ages 16-19 are involved in fatal crashes four times as often as those ages 25-69, according to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.


Those are serious statistics, and ones that are being shared this week as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which was established in 2007. The theme for this year is "Support Older Novice Drivers: Build Awareness of the Trend in Delayed Licensure."


We think the National Traffic Safety Administration’s "5 To Drive" campaign is spot on to emphasize to our teenagers:


• No Alcohol.


Even though the minimum legal drinking age in every state is 21, among 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2012, 28 percent of the drivers killed had been drinking.


• Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. Front Seat and Back.


In 2012, of all the young (15- to 20-year-old) passenger vehicle drivers killed in crashes, 55 percent of those killed were not wearing seat belts.


• Put It Down. One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.


In 2012, among drivers age 15 to 19 years old who were distracted in fatal crashes, nearly 1 in 5 were distracted by their phones.


• Stop Speeding Before It Stops You.


In 2012, speeding was a factor in 48 percent of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers. By comparison, 30 percent of all fatal crashes that year involved speeding.


• No More Than One Passenger.


Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teens in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.


"Inexperience and immaturity, combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving and other teen passengers contribute to the high fatality rate of teens involved in fatal crashes," stated NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "I encourage all parents of teenagers to have an open discussion with their teen about the dangers common among young drivers and to make sure they use our ‘5 To Drive’ program to develop the necessary skills to drive safely every trip, every time."


"Ride Like A Friend," a school-based initiative focused on the relationship between teen drivers and their teen passengers, aims to establish behaviors among teens that promote safe driving. Teens can "ride like a friend" by wearing a seat belt, reducing distractions, respecting the driver and helping the driver if asked. Safe passenger behaviors will help reduce crash risk and injuries and deaths if crashes do occur.


This week, take the time to talk to your teen driver. Be a good role model as you drive with your child in the car — don’t text and drive; don’t speed; and follow traffic laws.


Next week, take the time to talk to your teen driver. Keep up the conversation while emphasizing how to be safe and smart behind the wheel.


Let’s teach our teenagers how to be responsible and safe drivers and passengers. We want them all to arrive home safely each night.


— Times Record