AAA urges summer safety talks for parents and teens

No school, later curfews and road trips with friends. Summer often brings more freedom to Arizona teenagers. Unfortunately, summer also brings more car crashes. That's why the American Automobile Association of Arizona is urging parents to discuss safe driving not only with their children, but also with the parents of their children's friends. AAA's Parent to Parent contract can help initiate those potentially life saving discussions and create safer roads for all of us.

Car crashes are the number one killer of teenagers, and teen traffic deaths peak in the summer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers spend 44 percent more hours behind the wheel each week during summer than during the school year. They are also more likely to fill the car with friends and more likely to drive at night. In 2003, 54 percent of teens that died in crashes were killed on Friday, Saturday or Sunday with 42 percent killed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

While car crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers, the issue impacts every driver on the road. A first-of-its kind study released by AAA earlier this year revealed Arizona crashes involving teen drivers kill other people more often than the teen drivers themselves. Three out of four fatalities involving Arizona teen drivers are the teen driver's passengers, another driver, another driver's passengers, pedestrians or others. During 1995-2004, Arizona teen driver crashes have killed 151 teen drivers and 442 other people.

Driving inexperience and immaturity often lead to poor decisions with deadly consequences. Arizona is one of only six states without nighttime or passenger restrictions for teen drivers. While AAA supports legislation strengthening teen driver requirements, Arizona lawmakers have made little progress on the issue.

AAA's Parent to Parent contract encourages parents to work as a team to ensure teens gain the most driving experience in the safest possible environment. Discussing, writing and signing the contract cements the significance of the promises made between parents.

Parents can go to www.aaa.com and click on "aaa news" for the following information:

• AAA's Parent to Parent contract available for download.

• AAA's Parent Exchange offers suggestions on how to start a group conversation on teen driving, topics to discuss and ways to look out for each other's kids.

• AAA's Driver-ZED DVD is a full-screen, full-motion, real-life interactive computer video specifically designed for teens. They experience 100 behind-the-wheel scenarios to identify, assess and react to potential risks. To receive your copy, send a check or money order for $20 to: AAA Arizona Public Affairs, Driver-ZED, 3144 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85013.

Being a good role model may be the best prevention. If you speed, tailgate and run red lights, your teen is likely to as well. There's no better role model than you.

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