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Safe driving program aims at pre-teens

A national program to make teen drivers safer ones by educating them years before they get behind the wheel is being piloted in Glastonbury.

The Countdown 2 Drive program, which takes aim at 12- to 14-year-olds, was presented at Smith Middle School on the evening of April 8, and about 20 families were in attendance. The launch of the program was presented with the help of Glastonbury High School’s safe driving initiative “Be The Key,” the Town of Glastonbury’s Youth and Family Services, and the Glastonbury Alcohol and Drug Council (GLAD).

Tweens and their parents played the 'Newly-driving Game' and had to match answers to questions, including at what age the child will be allowed to drive. Photo by Steve Smith.
Tweens and their parents played the ‘Newly-driving Game’ and had to match answers to questions, including at what age the child will be allowed to drive. Photo by Steve Smith.

Countdown 2 Drive encourages families to negotiate rules, rewards and punishments in the form of a parent-tween passenger agreement, which was completed by families at the event.

Meg McCabe, the coordinator of Safe Kids Connecticut, the injury prevention arm of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, led the program with some startling statistics. Motor vehicle crashes are the largest killer of teens in the U.S., and that starting at ages 12-14, a child passenger’s risk of dying in a crash involving a teen driver doubles, and the risk continues to rise for each teen year.

“Just one teen passenger in the car increases your crash risk by 48-percent,” McCabe said. “Having three or more teem passengers increases your crash risk by 300-percent.”

McCabe informed the families about the graduated driver laws, including that a learner’s permit may be obtained at age 16, and requires a minimum of 4 months of training. A licensed driver may only have parents or driving instructors as passengers for the first 6 months, and only members of their immediate family may be added in months 7-12.
Separate breakout sessions were held for the tweens and the adults. Tweens were instructed on ways to not be a distraction to a driver, ways to actually help drivers, and what to do if they are in a car with a driver who is driving dangerously.

Also in the tweens’ session, a source of distracted driving may have been revealed. McCabe asked the students how many of them have seen their parents text while driving. About half the students raised their hands.

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