Youth drivers target of program

With teen motorists remaining Ohio’s most at-risk group for being involved in a traffic crash, efforts are being made statewide to help these new motorists remain in control behind the wheel.

A new program being implemented by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is meant to educate high school students about the dangers new motorists face, as well as the importance of good decision making.

In looking at local statistics involving crashes for young adult motorists between the ages of 16 and 20 in Auglaize County, OSHP Wapakoneta Post Sgt. Brian Jordan said unsafe speed definitely stands out as a common factor.

He said in 2011, crashes involving motorists in this age range accounted for 16 percent of the county’s total 565 crashes. Of the 93 crashes, 30 were for unsafe speed with 33 percent of those involving injuries. Failure to yield and deer were factors in 15 crashes each with 60 percent of the failure to yield crashes involving injuries and 20 percent of the deer crashes involving injuries.

To date in 2012, 59 of 302 crashes, or 19 percent, involved motorists who were 16 to 20 years old. Nineteen of those crashes were caused by unsafe speed, 10 by a deer, and four for motorist inattention. Thirty-one percent of the unsafe speed crashes involved injuries and 25 percent of the driver inattention crashes involved injuries. Just 1 percent of the deer crashes had injuries to the drivers or passengers.

The largest number of crashes involving young adult motorists in recent years was in 2010, when such crashes accounted for 21 percent, or 124, of the total 585 crashes handled by troopers with the local post.

A factor in 41 percent of the crashes was unsafe speed, with 43 percent of the crashes involving injuries. Twenty of the crashes involved a driver following too closely, with 45 percent of those crashes involving an injury. In September of 2010 a young adult driver, who was driving at an unsafe speed, was killed in a crash.

State statistics indicate that in 2011, 161 young adult motorists between the ages of 16 and 20, were involved in fatal traffic crashes on Ohio roadways. In 2010, there were 160 such crashes involving young drivers and in 2009, 177 crashes.

“We recognize our crash problems and go out and enforce those violations whether they are adults or teens,” OSHP Wapakoneta Post Commander Lt. Scott Carrico said.

He intends to contact schools and distribute safety materials and hang posters reminding students of the importance of making safe driving decisions.

Once a month a trooper speaks to a Carteens program, offered by the Ohio State University’s Auglaize County Extension Office, to address young motorists about crash-causing violations, defensive driving techniques, and the importance of wearing safety belts. The program is offered to first-time traffic offenders and reaches approximately 300 teen drivers each year.

Troopers also serve as part of the program offered at local fairs and speak to area driver’s education classes.

Young motorists are encouraged to visit the You Are In Control page on Facebook and share their safe driving stories or view educational videos concerning good decision making.