A Smithville woman was killed Monday night when a teen driver struck her car head on. According to the St. Joseph Post, it happened on Highway 92 in Platte County. Law enforcement officials say 25 year-old Ashley Miller was traveling east when she encountered 17 year-old Logan Pope, who was traveling west in the eastbound lane as he attempted to pass another vehicle. Miller was taken from the scene by helicopter, but she later died as a result of her injuries. Pope was seriously injured in the crash and remains hospitalized.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for young Americans between age 16 and 20, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2011, 81 people were killed in Missouri accidents involving teen drivers. Teens are more likely to be involved in injury accidents because of several behaviors that are common in young drivers, including inexperience combined with speed; distracted driving (involving cell phone use, passengers, etc.); inexperience combined with nighttime driving; and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
What can parents do to keep their teens safe on Missouri roads? Insisting on seat belt use is a basic yet essential place to start. Of Missouri's 2011 teen crash fatalities, 79% neglected to wear their seat belts - which have proven to reduce fatal injury risks by 45%. "So many of those tragedies could have been prevented if only teens would take the time to buckle up," Leanna Depue, executive committee chair of the Missouri Coalition for Road Safety, told the Cassville Democrat.
This week (October 14 to October 20) is National Teen Driver Safety Week. In that spirit, our car accident lawyers would like to share a few tips to help parents promote safe, responsible driving.
Encouraging safety: Tips for parents of teen drivers
• Be clear and firm about your expectations. Make sure your teen drivers understand what the rules are - and what consequences they face, should those rules be broken. Also, take some time to explain why those rules are in place. Many parents find a teen driving contract is a useful tool, as it gives you the opportunity to actually spell out the rules in writing. A teen driving contract can establish clear boundaries related to seat belts, cell phone use, curfew, passengers and alcohol or drug use.
• Be responsive and respectful. When you discuss safe driving with your teen, make sure he or she understand that "safe" is the operative word. Teens are more likely to honor boundaries when they understand you're trying to keep them safe, not control them. Also, remember to listen when your teens have questions. If you want them to take your concerns seriously, extend them the same courtesy.
• Be there when they need you. Let your teens know they can turn to you if they find themselves in an dangerous situation, so they won't risk driving (or riding with someone) when it's unsafe to do so. Some parents establish a code word with their teens: when the word is used, parents automatically know that something is wrong and they need to be picked up immediately, no questions asked.
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