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National Teen Driver Safety Week: Preventing Teen Driving Accidents

Craig McClellan

Do you know that what the number one cause of death is among teenagers? If you guessed car accidents, then you'd be correct.

The car accident rate for teenage drivers (and their teenage passengers) is higher than any other age group. Because it continues to be a national problem, Congress designated in 2007 that the third week of October would be known as National Teen Driver Safety Week. And yes, you did the math right - that means it is this week.

This year, National Teen Driver Safety Week runs from October 14 through the 20th. During the course of the week law enforcement agencies, traffic safety organizations, educators and other advocates for safe driving join together to help bring awareness to safe driving habits.

According to California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Joe Farrow, awareness week is a national effort to bring awareness to the alarming statistics of teen traffic fatalities. And as part of the education process, local agencies are able to focus their efforts closer to home. "By educating new drivers early on and arming them with the information needed to become a safe driver, our goal is to prevent future tragedies from occurring on the road," he said.

In 2010 in California, there were more than 57,000 accidents involving teenage drivers (ages 16 to 19), and according to CHP's records, teens were found to be at fault in 67 percent of those accidents.

As part of awareness week a number of local agencies have teamed up to provide programs that help educate teens on safe driving habits. In fact, the CHP offers a free driver safety education class throughout California year-round. The program is called Start Smart, and works with teenage drivers and their parents.

In California, there is potential liability for the parents of a teenage driver. All drivers under the age of 18 must have a parent or legal guardian sign a consent form before they can be licensed. Under that consent, parents agree to be liable for any car accident injuries caused by their teenage driver. Because parents of teen drivers in California do bear such responsibility, it is important for them to not only make sure their teens are aware of good driving habits, but to also serve as role model for safe driving.