Teen drivers cost $600M per year in Oklahoma

Lawton_Teen drivers and their accidents have cost nearly $600 Million in Oklahoma alone, and the new AAA (American Automobile Association) analysis says car crashes involving 15 to 17-year olds in the US is staggering.  Young drivers cost us more than $34 Billion per year.  Local experts say parents need to monitor when their kids drive, and who is with them in the vehicle.  In Oklahoma it's illegal for 16-year-olds to drive after 11 p.m., and they are only permitted to have one passenger in their vehicle at a time.  Other states have similar laws.

Seatbelts and drunk drivers seem to be experts' number one safety concern.  "Getting the people to try to wear seat belts, and getting the drunk drivers off the road," says Automotive Insurance Agent Keith Erwin.  There are other problems as well such as cell phone distraction, and driving at night.  "Driving after 11 p.m. in this state, and any state, tends to be recreational driving," he says.  "You mix that with more than one passenger and with a cell phone and you've got a recipe for disaster."

A 17-year-old driver and her friends were driving on Cache Road in Comanche County last July.  The speed limit there is 45 miles per hour, but Oklahoma Highway Patrol estimated the car to be travelling at 100 miles per hour.  They found a cell phone in the debris that remained after the crash.  Wade says teens should learn driving skills.  "They're all in a hurry to get their license, and go on and drive on their own," says driving instructor Jerry Wade.  "They gotta understand that a car will kill you if you don't care of business and learn defensive driving skills.  Part of being a good driver is being defensive, looking out for what the other person is doing, and young drivers just don't know that at age 16."

Erwin says he sets an example for his kids every time they watch him drive, and that parents have a responsibility to monitor their children's driving.  "Making sure that our kids do not drive after 11, making sure that they do not have more than one passenger in their vehicle, and making sure that they don't use cell phones, are the most important things we can do to basically save lives in Oklahoma."

AAA's analysis also says 15-17-year-olds were involved in over 900,000 crashes in 2006, injuring over 400,000 and killing over 2,500.  However, there was some good news in the report for Oklahoma; fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers are down 38% in states that have graduated driver's licensing.  Oklahoma passed its graduated licensing law in 1999, and since then, teen accident deaths are down 44%.