Teens least likely to buckle up

Published 9:15 am Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teenager drivers are most likely to be injured or killed in a vehicle accident. Teen drivers are least likely to wear a seat belt and most likely to be driving while impaired, including distracted driving.

It was for those reasons that Jennifer C. Garrett organized a Teen Driving event in 2011 and, for those same reasons, she has again pulled together a group of parents who are dedicated to keeping teens safe on the highways.

This group has organized the 2012 Teen Driving Event, which is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Cattleman Park. All teens, pre-teens and parents are invited and encouraged to attend.

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“The Teen Driving Event is free and everyone who comes will benefit,” Garrett said. “What will be learned has the potential to prevent vehicle injuries and possibly save lives.”

Garrett said that getting behind the wheel of a vehicle is, perhaps, the most dangerous thing a teenager can do.

Car accidents are the leading killer of teens in Alabama and account for about half of all deaths of children younger than 18.

Alabama is the second worst state in the country when it comes to the rate of teenage driver fatalities per capita, Garrett said.

“We want to do all that we can to keep our teens safe on the highways,” she said. “The Teen Driving Event is one step in that direction.”

The doors to the Teen Driving Event open at 6 p.m. and everyone is encouraged to come early and visit the informational booths.

“We have booths that will offer information related to safe driving,” Garrett said. “The Troy Police Department and Pike County Sheriff’s Department will have booths along with the ABC Board, Alabama Department of Health, ECCHO, Earles’ Glass, Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“Each family that attends will be given a memorial book with stories about Pike County teenagers who lost their lives in vehicle accidents,” Garrett said. “We don’t want people to ever forget these young people and their families.”

The 2012 Teen Driving Event Program will be presented by Alabama State Trooper Charles Dysart from the Montgomery office and Jonah McWaters, a Pike County teen vehicle accident victim.

“Trooper Dysart will speak on the dangers of drinking and driving, distracted driving and the importance of wearing seatbelts,” Garrett said. “He will also bring the roll-over simulator that demonstrates how seatbelts can save lives.”

McWaters was injured in a vehicle accident when he was 17 years old. He is a paraplegic, who has a shot at making the 2012 London Paralympic Games in the javelin throw.

“Jonah is an inspiring speaker and his message will be one that will have an impact on teens,” Garrett said. “They will hear from Jonah what it’s like to have to learn to live your life as a paraplegic and what it takes to battle back.”

The 2012 Teen Driving Event is free but donations will be accepted and appreciated.

Garrett said there are expenses associated with putting together and carrying out the event.

“Last year, we had between 300 and 400 people in attendance,” she said. “That shows that teenagers and parents realize the dangers of being on the road and want to do what they can to make sure they get home safely. We hope to make the Teen Driving Event an annual event. If there is enough interest, it will be.”