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Wisconsin teens urged to shift focus from electronic devices to roads

As they're growing up and riding as passengers in their parents' cars, many children entertain themselves with video games, DVDs, horseplay and text messages on their cell phones.

Eventually those kids become teens interested in not only riding along, but in driving vehicles on their own. It's then that they need to shift their focus from distractions, experts say, to the roads. In that way, they can avoid car accidents that threaten their safety and health, as well as the health and safety of others.

"All of a sudden, they are captain of the ship," one driving instructor in Wisconsin Rapids told a media outlet. "It's a whole different focus; you go from being a passenger to being in charge."

However, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation warns us that inexperienced drivers are more likely to be in vehicle accidents. But as they age, and gain driving experience, the accident rate drops. At 16 years old, a whopping 15.1 percent of drivers are involved in crashes. By 19 years old, that rate drops to 9.8 percent.

Among drivers 20 and older, the rate is just 4.2 percent.

In addition to inexperience, another problem with young drivers is that they believe they're invulnerable, the instructor says. Teens don't believe accidents can happen to them, so they're far too often fearless, even when speeding or otherwise driving dangerously or recklessly.

A recent study showed that teen drivers are too often driving alone after they get their driver's licenses.

Adults should continue to ride as passengers with their sons and daughters, experts say. In that way, adults can be there when teens encounter unusual traffic conditions, different types of weather, road problems and other difficulties that an experienced driver is likely to have seen before.

Source: WisconsinRapidsTribune.com: "Teen drivers urged to focus on safety," Deb Cleworth, Oct. 21, 2011

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