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How to get young drivers to take driving safety seriously

You see plenty of young drivers on the roads every day. These teenagers learned enough to pass their driving tests, but you worry that they simply approached them like any school test: They crammed until they had the information "memorized" for a few days, passed the tests and then forgot most of what they had learned.

In particular, you worry about distracted driving. You know how dangerous it is. You know how often teens do it. And you also know that, despite being told about the dangers many times during their training, teens just do not take this risk seriously. That's why they keep on doing it. How can adults change this dangerous mindset?

Show them the reality

One potential option is to push teens closer to the reality by showing them what the results of a distracted driving accident look like. Often, they think of warnings as rules that they want to bend or break when no one is looking. They do not think of them as something designed to really keep them safe.

An educational program combated this by taking them to a hospital and having them tour a trauma center. They also got to listen to testimony from someone who had survived traumatic injuries. When shown the reality, they understood why the rules existed, and that made them more likely to follow those rules.

Help them connect

Meeting with the survivor was especially impactful, as it helped the teens connect with someone who had really been through a terrible event. They could see how it had changed that person's life forever. Seeing it first-hand humanized things more than simply watching a movie or reading a textbook. It brought the reality home for them before they got into serious accidents, rather than after.

Does it work?

The big question is whether a program like this actually works. According to the students who went through the program, it does.

For instance, before the program, around 64 percent of students said they probably would not use their phones to make calls while behind the wheel. Afterward, that number jumped to 82 percent. Similarly, around 69 percent claimed they would not text and drive at the beginning, but that percentage leapt all the way to 92 percent at the end.

Could the increase have come from the fact that students knew what the program's goal was and how adults expected them to answer? Perhaps. But the changes do show that it had an impact, which hopefully carries over and influences the way those teens actually drive.

Accidents and rights

Unfortunately, car accidents remain a leading cause of injury and death in Ohio. If you get hurt by a young, distracted driver, make sure you know what rights you have.

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Cubbon & Associates Co., L.P.A.

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