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Students teaching teens to be aware of driving dangers

DULUTH - Students at Duluth High School are working to increase awareness about the dangers faced by teenage drivers.

The Texas Transportation Institute recently surveyed more than 1,100 students at Duluth High about teens' top driving risks for teens. More than 50 percent selected drinking and drug use as the biggest risk, but it's actually No. 5 on the list.

"Nighttime driving is at the top of the danger list," 11th-grader Brianna Dickinson said. "Unfortunately for us, it's at the bottom of the awareness list. We're working to change that because if we can help other young drivers really understand the dangers they face, we can help them drive more safely."

Other risks are speeding, talking or text messaging on a cell phone, neglecting to wear a seat belt and having too many teen passengers in the vehicle. About 6,000 teens nationwide die each year in car crashes.

Duluth High is the first school in Georgia to launch Teens in the Driver Seat, a peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers.

Although the survey provides bad news about teen drivers, senior Lexi Anderson said the good news is students are stepping up to promote safety and working to encourage their peers to practice safe driving habits.

Duluth High School Principal Pat Blenke said he agreed to participate in the program because he's interested in any program related to safety.

"I'm very interested in the things we can do as a school and administration to promote safety in school," Blenke said, adding that it's difficult for students to learn when they don't feel safe. "Students feel safe here at Duluth High School, and I want them to keep safe when they leave Duluth High School and when they leave the campus."

About 2,200 students attend the high school, and about 30 percent of the juniors and seniors drive to school, Blenke said.

"If positive peer communication is done correctly, it will have more of an impact than adult communication with students," Blenke said. "There's a strong likelihood that students will listen to their peers and believe their peers more than adults."

Other Georgia high schools are encouraged to participate in Teens in the Driver Seat, offered with support provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

For more information, visit www.t-driver.com.