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MDCH Announces Interactive Website for Parents of New Teen Drivers

Contact: Angela Minicuci (517) 241-2112

For Immediate Release September 1, 1011

LANSING - It makes any parent nervous when their teen begins the process of driving independently. Driving is a complicated task, and it takes several years for a person to gain experience to become a safe driver. The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) have partnered to develop a free, interactive web resource called "Checkpoints" (www.saferdrivingforteens.org) to help parents set and reinforce limits on high risk driving conditions for new teen drivers.

"I encourage all Michigan parents to visit the website (www.saferdrivingforteens.org) to learn more about teen driving safety and to register to use the free interactive driving agreement," said MDCH Director Olga Dazzo. "As more parents use this evidence-based, cost effective strategy, we can improve teen driving safety in Michigan."

The Checkpoints web-based program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The CDC has identified prevention of motor vehicle crashes as a "Winnable Battle" because there are proven strategies, such as parent involvement, seat belt use and graduated driving licensing, that have a large-scale impact in preventing injuries. According to MDCH Director Olga Dazzo, prevention of motor vehicle injuries and deaths is also one of the benchmarks for public safety on the Governor's MiDashboard.

"Motor vehicle crashes kill more teens than any other cause," said C. Raymond Bingham, a research professor who heads up UMTRI's Young Driver Behavior and Injury Prevention Group. "The main reason driving is more dangerous for teens, is that they are young and not experienced at driving unsupervised. Becoming a safe driver takes years of experience."

Bingham further said, "Many parents struggle with wanting to let their teens start driving unsupervised and knowing how to keep their teens as safe as possible when they are not in the vehicle with them. By being actively involved in their teen's driving, parents help increase their safety. Checkpoints helps parents stay involved in ways that reduce teen's chances of crashing."

The centerpiece of the Checkpoints program is a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that facilitates clear rule-setting on driving privileges during the first year of independent driving for situations such as driving at night, with passengers, on high-speed roads and in inclement weather. The agreement also allows parents to establish rules for teens to follow in all driving situations, such as:

  • Never play around with passengers, talk on a cell phone, mess with the radio or do anything else distracting.
  • Always call home if for any reason it is not safe to drive or ride with someone else.
  • Always wear a safety belt and require all passengers to wear safety belts.
  • Never drive after taking any drugs/alcohol or ride with a driver who has taken drugs/alcohol.

The agreement also allows families to establish common rules for parents, such as:

  • Provide a safe ride home when asked (no questions at that time).
  • Consider necessary exceptions to the driving privileges.
  • Point out and discuss safe and dangerous driving situations and practices.
  • Be a good role model behind the wheel.

The Checkpoints program, created by Bruce Simons-Morton of the National Institutes of Health, has been evaluated in several research studies. Parents and teens in several states, including Michigan, have tested the Checkpoints Parent-Teen driving agreement and results have been positive, with teens reporting less risky driving behaviors and fewer tickets. Checkpoints also enhances communication between parents and teens around safer driving behavior.

Protect your teen by creating a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement today at www.saferdrivingforteens.org

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