Learning to drive is a big step in life's journey. But for teens, car crashes remain their largest public health issue as the number one killer of 15 to 19 year olds. Their first year on the road is the most dangerous. And, we all know reasons for teen crashes are numerous from technology to distractions; to driver inexperience; and parental role modeling behind the wheel.Is there more that can be done? Yes, change the conversation.On Saturday, September 15th, State Farm, with community leaders and schools from across the country, hosted more than 300 simultaneous events with thousands of teen participants. Called Celebrate My Drive, the King of Prussia Mall hosted one of thirteen large events that included interactive driving simulation, education and awareness panels, and a rally to promote teen driver safety and the excitement of receiving a driver's license.For decades, we have relied heavily on spotlighting the dangerous of poor driving practices with negative consequences. But, hyper-connected teens can easily tune out such messages. According to research conducted by State Farm and Childrens' Hospital of Philadelphia, a positive approach may hold the key with today's teen drivers. Teens who say their parents set rules, monitor, and are helpful and supportive are (1) Half as likely to be in a car crash; (2) Half as likely to speed; and (3) Twice as likely to wear a seat belt (Harris Survey 2012). Positive, gain framed messages are more engaging long term to a recipient. Or, in this case teen drivers are more receptive to share tactics versus scare tactics.At Saturday's event, teens talked about the excitement of the road ahead and what freedoms a license brings to their lives. This includes the influence their own peers have on their decisions. "When I'm in a car with my friends or family, I say 'Hey, don't do that, I'll text for you.' I'm the designated texter", said 18 year old Lehigh Valley native Navea Frazier.Saturday's event at the KOP Mall was also about fun and included opportunities to make flip book videos, perform spoken word with First Person Arts, dance with Cappuchino from Power 99, and meet and greet Philadelphia 76er, Evan Turner. Another attendees and speakers included Pennsylvania State Representative, Kathy Watson, and representatives from Childrens' Hospital of Philadelphia, Main Line Health, Pennsylvania DUI Association, Plymouth Township police department, and the Lacey Gallagher Foundation. Celebrate My Drive and State Farm are also helping area schools with an opportunity to win $100K through an on line voting contest and an opportunity for teenagers to win a 2013 Chevy Sonic LS. Winners will be announced the week of October 15th during National teen Driver Safety Week.Although an upbeat event, Celebrate My Drive was about all teen drivers and their safety. And, we are making progress. From 2005 to 2010, the number of teens behind the wheel that died in crashes declined 46% from 2,399 to 1,305. Deaths among their passengers also declined 41% from 1,777 to 1, 022. Talk to your kids about safe driving, and often. Don't stop the conversation once they receive their license, either. According to Childrens' Hospital of Philadelphia, teens say they trust their parents THE MOST when it comes to driver education and safety education. More than 69%. So, they are listening . For parents, that's a pretty good reason to celebrate!
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