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Here are some facts about motor vehicle accidents involving teenagers and seniors:

1. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds.

2. Teenage drivers have been involved in 5,154 accidents per 100,000 vehicle miles, as compared to 500 accidents per 100,000 vehicle miles for all other age groups combined.

3. Teenagers account for 6.9% of all drivers but are involved in over 25% of the accidents. There will be 23% more teenage drivers by 2010.

4. The automobile accident death rate among people 65-74 years old is more than 10% higher than in the 25-64 age group. In the 75 + age group, the accident death rate is almost 15% higher than in the 25-64 age group.

The statistics about teen driving accidents are alarming, primarily because of lack of driving experience, and also with a new found freedom, teens may test their driving abilities to the maximum, which can be fatal. Thus, it's possible that the way a teen drives with a parent or adult in the car is different from how he/she drives with his/her friends in the car. In the case of senior citizen drivers, their reflexes and response time may be slower than most drivers, increasing their risk to not responding to varying driving situations quickly.

Only practice and experience can make one a good driver. Most of the highway crashes are due to driver inexperience or callousness. To become a good and alert driver, one must follow several rules:

1. Give driving full attention. Dangerous distractions like talking to passengers or talking over the phone, adjusting a car stereo, or eating should be avoided.

2. Drive defensively.

3. Learn to drive in different situations like highway driving, night driving, or driving under various weather conditions.

4. Have knowledge about the emergency situations like skidding or tire blowout.

5. Obey the rules of the road.

AFTER ENTERING THE CAR:
Shut and lock doors, locate all controls.
Ensure handbrake is on.
Ensure gear lever is in neutral.

PREPARE YOURSELF:
Adjust seating.
Adjust mirrors.
Fasten seatbelt.

PREPARE THE VEHICLE:
Start engine (check dash warning lights and familiarize with positions of the key, i.e., ignition/accessories, etc.).
Select appropriate gear (in an auto, foot must be firmly on brake).
Release ratchet on handbrake (pull up a little, press button, and hold).

PREPARATION FOR TRAFFIC:
Check mirrors.
Give five second indication.
Check over shoulder (blindspot).
Release handbrake and move off. (Concern is often expressed about the danger of being trapped by a locked door. While this is valid, the possibility of an intruder is greater, especially when travelling alone at night. Another common mishap is leaving the door open while reversing a short distance and getting it jammed on a fence post, petrol pump, etc.)


The best way to prepare yourself for unpredictable events is to drive defensively:

1. Always maintain a good vision ahead and around your vehicle.
2. Stay alert and be prepared to react to the unexpected.
3. Drive at right speed and know when to slow down and stop.
4. Always wear the safety belt.
5. Anticipate the mistakes or unsafe maneuvers of the other drivers.
6. Keep your eyes moving.
7. Watch for the reverse lights of any vehicle ahead of you.
8. Pay close attention to crosswalks or when driving in the vicinity of playgrounds, schoolyards, and shopping center parking lots.
9. Be cautious of bicyclists or children playing anywhere near the driveway.
10. Do not drive if you have been drinking, are on medication, or are very tired.
11. Keep the vehicle in good working order.
12. Obey the rules of the road and give right of way whenever necessary.
13. Use your horn to warn pedestrians or other drivers of possible trouble or to avoid accidents.
14. Use headlights in rain, snow, fog, in evening, or early morning.
15. Allow extra space between heavy-equipment vehicles, motorcycles, or bicycles and your vehicle.
16. If a tailgater is following you, move to another lane if possible or pull to the side of the road and let the tailgater pass you.
17. Never engage in drag racing or drive on a bet or wager.
18. Do not drive in another driver's blind spot.
19. Do not weave in and out of traffic.
20. Avoid "highway hypnosis."
21. Be aware of the construction or speed reduction signs.
22. If you plan to drive a long distance, stop and stretch after every two hours.
23. Stay in the middle of your lane in between the lines.
24. Slow down in unfamiliar areas.

YOUR HEALTH AND PHYSICAL CONDITIONS

Because you must be in control of your vehicle at all times, it is important that you remain alert and responsive. You not only need good vision, you need good hearing as well. You should never drive:

1. When you have been drinking alcohol
2. When you have taken any prescription or over-the-counter medicine that can cause drowsiness
3. If you are under the influence of any drug
4. When you are very tired
5. When you are emotionally upset (Anger and depression can cause you to drive carelessly).

MATURE DRIVERS

As a mature driver, you should constantly re-evaluate your driving skills. Here are some tips.

1. Choose the time and the road that's best suited to your driving ability.
2. Choose a well-lighted driveway for night driving.
3. Stay alert when driving to compensate for any declines in vision, hearing, or reaction time.
4. Keep information on public transportation, taxi services, and senior ride programs current and on hand in case you need an alternative transportation mode.
5. Share driving time with another person.
6. Keep your driver's license current.
7. Enroll in a driver refresher course.
8. Accept the judgment of your family and friends about your driving skills. Ask them to rate your skills and improve or discontinue driving if your driving is unsafe.

SELF PERCEPTION

A great deal of what we see depends on what we are looking for. Perception of our own driving ability and our attitude toward other road users has a big influence on everyone's road safety. The beliefs that make up our perception of reality often go back as far as forgotten influences during our childhood. Such beliefs are not always based on logical argument, so any questioning or implied criticism can make us angry or upset.

A practical way of improving our perception of what is happening on the road is to perform a "running commentary" out loud as we drive. The object is to heighten our awareness of everything that is happening and also decide what can be reasonably expected to happen that could affect our safety. It can also help us make a self-assessment of our own attitude.

CARS DON'T CRASH BUT DRIVERS DO

Modern cars are manufactured to very safe standards and the environment in which they're driven is engineered to minimize the injuries occurring during an accident. The most difficult area to change is aggressive driver behavior and selfish attitudes. This is often dealt with by enforcement measures.

Research shows that the incidence of road accidents involving learner drivers is very low. However, having passed their tests and driving unaccompanied without L-Plates (bearing the "Learner" sign), these drivers join the highest road accident risk group.

A survey of new drivers who've received fixed penalties or court summons has shown that 42% had been involved in a road accident, as opposed to 18% of those who had not been prosecuted for any offense.

Even the most experienced drivers make mistakes. Regardless of how many years one has been driving, at some point he/she will have to face equipment failures, bad weather conditions, unskilled drivers on the road, unpredictable pedestrians, and drivers who ignore traffic regulations. So to become a good driver, one must drive defensively.