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Teenagers and Reckless Driving
A Deadly Combination
February, 2005 - Issue #5
Speeding isn
Speeding isn't restricted to the minors of Santa Clarita, but an adolescent's inexperience behind the wheel makes going over the limit more deadly for the under-aged.
For years Santa Clarita teenagers have fallen victim to a deadly trend - reckless driving. All too often this community is struck with the news that yet another accident has taken the lives of local youths. Some say we learn from our mistakes, but if so, why do these accidents keep happening?

Over the last decade Santa Clarita has lost 18 teen drivers, all due to driver error or careless risk-taking. These accidents are not only mortifying to the families of the victims, but also the friends and schoolmates who deal with the shock. An empty desk that holds the memory of a lost friend can be haunting to a young student who must walk into a classroom and see the void on a daily basis.

Immaturity and minimal driving experience are the main reasons new drivers are so often involved in traffic accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's crash statistics, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds. In 2003, more than 700 young drivers were involved in fatal crashes in California alone, with nearly 8,000 nationwide.

In hopes of preventing further accidents, several campaigns have been launched to reinforce safe driving habits and to remind teenagers of the related losses that have occurred over the years. White Ribbon Week, The Blue Ribbon Task Force, SCV Safe Rides, the Every 15 Minutes campaign and the Stay Alive and Drive campaign, all focus on keeping our Santa Clarita teens safe on the road. "Lots of kids think they are invincible and don't take heed to anything that is handed down to them by officers and parents. All of these programs are geared towards making young drivers into old-time drivers," says Sergeant James Anderson, traffic supervisor at The Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station.

The Stay Alive and Drive Campaign, new to Santa Clarita last year, was spearheaded by Courtney Bourdas Henn, marketing director of Mountasia Family Fun Center in Saugus, and was supported by many local organizations, such as the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station, the California Highway Patrol and AAA. The weeklong event took place in December and targeted the 6,000-plus students who are of driving-age at the four major high schools. The program provided the schools with contracts that the students signed as a promise to drive safe. "There is so much needless death that is happening out there, and since 95 percent of [the Mountasia] staff are high school students, I just wanted to do something that could help, even if it only reached a few people. My desire was to start an awareness campaign that would make students say, 'Here's some businesses who are supporting us when we are behind the wheel,'" says Bourdas Henn. Other than the obvious incentive, students were also given the chance to present their contracts at some of their favorite businesses, like Maggie Moo's Ice Cream and Treatery, Ice Station Valencia, Mountasia and Santa Clarita Lanes, where they were offered discounts as a reward. The Stay Alive and Drive Campaign proved to be very successful in its first year, with hundreds of students claiming their discount at Mountasia alone.

When asked what advice he would give to teen drivers, Sergeant Anderson stated, "Even if you're just the passenger in one of these cars you need to speak for yourself. If there is someone egging you on, you need to remove yourself from these situations. When you get behind the wheel of a car that weighs ten-thousand pounds it makes a big difference on the impact of your life."

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Special thanks to Glenn Terry of Glenn Terry Insurance (xxx-xxxx) for assisting in the research of this article.
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