augusta free press news

National observance urges teens to drive safely

Distracted DrivingToo many teens are dying on roadways, and in response the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will observe National Teen Driver Safety Week Oct. 21-27.

Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. youth ages 15 to18—ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence. A total of 1,972 teen drivers of passenger vehicles were involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2015, and 99,000 sustained injuries.

“Keeping all drivers, especially our young drivers who may not be as experienced, safe on the roadways is a very important issue,” said Darlene Wells, executive vice president and general manager of Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and a Drive Smart Virginia board member. Drive Smart Virginia is a nonprofit organization that promotes traffic safety in Virginia and was founded by six Virginia insurance companies, including VFBMIC.

According to the NHTSA, teen drivers face more challenges than experienced drivers. In addition to learning the basic rules of the road and how to safely operate a vehicle, today’s teens are expected to focus in an increasingly distracting world.

Dangers for teen drivers include alcohol-impaired driving, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, texting and the number of passengers in the vehicle.

The NHTSA encourages parents to have conversations with their teen drivers about safety. VFBMIC offers its auto insurance policyholders a Smart Start Teen Driving Program to encourage teen drivers to be safe behind the wheel.

The program offers tips on Virginia driving laws and a review of safe driving habits. There also is an incentive— new drivers under 18 on a Virginia Farm Bureau insurance policy will receive an extra 5 percent off premiums if they successfully complete the course.

Drive Smart Virginia also has teen driver resources available on its website at, and more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week also is available at