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Steering toward safety

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the deadliest days of the year for teens ages 15 to 19 are in the summer months of June, July and August. As summer approaches, aims to draw parents' attention to this issue by outlining important tips to help parents keep teens safe while driving this summer.

Pick the right car. Keeping teens safe on the road starts with ensuring they have the right car. While many teens inherit their parent's vehicle as their first car — mainly due to simplicity and cost efficiency — parents should step back and thoughtfully consider their choice, keeping safety top of mind. For example, SUVs and trucks behave differently on the road than coupes and sedans. A teen driver may lack the skills to cope with evasive maneuvers in a big truck. Parents should opt for something that sits close to the ground (to minimize rollover risk) and something that isn't overly powerful.

Educate teens on car maintenance. With the radio playing the summer's top tunes, it's easy for teens to miss important car maintenance signs; therefore, parents should add car maintenance, such as checking tire pressure and fluids, to their list of things to discuss with their teens. Even if just one tire has low pressure, it can dramatically change the way a car handles. Also, parents should be sure that their teen drivers check all fluids like window washing fluid, coolant, oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid. Making sure these fluids are properly maintained can help prevent a breakdown far from home.

Seat belts save lives. Obvious tip? Not to one in every seven drivers who still don't wear their seat belts. According to the Centers for Disease Control, automotive accidents are the No. 1 cause of death in the United States among people age 5 to 34. Furthermore, the CDC says that buckled drivers cut in half their chances of being seriously injured or killed in a crash. Reiterate the importance of wearing a seat belt, and note that technology can also help. For example, some Ford vehicles can be equipped with the MyKey feature, making it possible for parents to limit certain aspects of their teen's car. With MyKey, top speed, radio volume and seat belt chime parameters can be altered.

Discourage distracted driving. According to, cellphone use was reported in 18 percent of distracted-related fatalities in America. Additionally, having multiple passengers, changing iPod tracks or operating the car's navigation system can be just as dangerous. Parents should discuss all the different ways drivers can be distracted with their teens to help keep them safe on the road.

Discourage overuse of cruise control. Cruise control can work well on long trips and may even limit driver fatigue. However, teen drivers who may be more likely to stay out late should limit the use of cruise control at night. The lack of engagement might lead to a slightly drowsy driver falling asleep more quickly.

Steering toward safety 06/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 7, 2012 4:30am]
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