Any parent knows that handing over the car keys to a teenager for the first time can be pretty frightening. Rookie drivers are at the highest risk on the road, and so are the passengers riding with them; 60 percent of teen passenger deaths happen when another teen is behind the wheel.
Julia Emery, a Charlottesville High School student, packs in her friends for the ride home, but she admits she's not one to pressure her pals to follow her lead. "Generally, whenever I carry someone, I think they wear a seatbelt. I mean, I don't say it to them," Emery said.
Research shows teens are the worst of any age group at using seatbelts. Only 65 percent say they typically buckle up both as a driver and passenger.
Emery stated, "I'm not sure if people forget or just choose to ignore, but sometimes all you need is a slight push I guess."
State Farm Agent Gary Albert is providing that push at the school's parking lot exit. "For every driver that's got their seatbelt on, they get a dollar bill," Albert stated.
The Strapped for Cash checkpoint doles out that dollar incentive for teen drivers and passengers showing safe behavior on the road. Albert said, "Anything we can do as a community to help reduce that risk is better for everybody."
Albert recommends that parents don't hand over the keys to the coolest car in the school parking lot. Instead, choose a vehicle with the safest rating. Keep their driving documents in order - with registration, insurance card, and proof of inspection all in one place. And if an accident happens, always call the cops.
"It would be very easy for that teen driver to be talked into believing that accident was their fault. So, if a police officer is there, it's an objective point of view," said Albert.
Being a role model on the road pays off - safe teen drivers can save money on insurance. Albert stated, "You have reinforcement opportunities where you see modeling from parents or you see other people you look up to in their habits."
Also talk to your teen about the dangers of driving impaired or distracted. Virginia law limits the number of passengers new drivers can carry. "There's an equal responsibility there - both as passengers - don't get in a car you don't feel safe in - and don't drive a car when you're not in the right frame of mind to drive it," Albert said.
CHS senior Hanan Du Vernay hears it from his parents all the time. "They're always telling me – ‘don't have too many kids in there' and ‘don't play the music too loud'," he said.
Du Vernay says he listens to their advice to avoid becoming another teen driving statistic. "It's the law. And, I've seen too many, had too many friends who've been in accidents. It's ugly," he said.
State Farm also recommends parents raise deductibles and increase liability insurance to help cut the cost of adding a teen driver to your policy.
For more information on State Farm teen driver safety, click here.
For more information on Virginia teen driving restrictions, click here.