Teen Crash Rates Bring Parents To Classroom

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

January 11, 2006

Albemarle County has one of the highest teen car crash rates in the region, averaging about 17 percent of young drivers that get into accidents.

The first and most obvious reason is inexperience--which just takes time, but another cause can be distractions inside the car--everything from cell phones to changing the radio to changing a CD.

Distractions and speed are leading causes of teen crashes, but these aren't the only things worrying young drivers.

"I get really nervous when cars are tailgating me and I just...have the [tendency] to speed up so I mean it's nerve-racking because it's my first time, but I like it," said Brittany Belew, who has her Learner's Permit.

It's not just nerve-racking for students--some parents are just as worried about teaching.

"I'm nervous, more so than [my son] is. Concerned about his safety, the roads, and insurance and that kind of thing," said Deneen Morris, parent of future driver.

Albemarle County is taking steps to lower the crash rate by instructing parents on how to be teachers. Before these classes were voluntary.

"Now it's mandatory in Albemarle County that every student present a certificate where their parent has attended a parent seminar in order to enroll for behind-the-wheel training," said Richard Wharam, Albemarle Driver's Education Coordinator.

Albemarle is the third county in the state to require these classes, but even some parents teaching their second child learned something new.

"Going down [Rt] 29 as he demonstrated in one of the photos and always staying on the right hand side of the road and keeping that safe distance from the other car," said parent Tammy Belew.

The instructor set-out a time table for parents. Practice should begin in a parking lot, moving to neighborhoods, on again to rural roads, Rt. 29 on the right lane when there isn't any traffic, and finish on city driving. All of these preferably not in rush hour.

Tonight's class was the first mandatory parent seminar in Albemarle County.

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