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Teens vs. trucks: not a fair fight

With the number of large truck and car accidents seemingly on the rise these days, parents are more nervous than ever about handing car keys to their teens. Teens tend to have older, smaller cars and will be sharing the road with large commercial trucks. Yet there are plenty of good reasons for teens to drive-they need to get to school, sports or work. They might be helping do some of the family errands, too.

Since your teen is going to drive, it's important to talk about what you expect. You should also have a long talk about safety. Driver's education courses are one thing. You have real life experience as a driver. Passing along what you have learned is important. What you tell them now may save their lives.

Protecting your teen

The numbers are scary.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. Drivers aged 16-19 are almost three more times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers who are older than 20. You and your teen need a plan to get safely through this risky time. Here are four actions you can take now to safeguard your teen:

1. Insist your teen wears a seatbelt. Every time. If a car crash does occur, they'll be better protected. According to the CDC, teens wear seatbelts less than almost everybody else.

2. Don't let them drive late at night. Their lack of experience can get them in trouble. Set a curfew. Big trucks are out at all times of day and night. (While the provisional license in New Mexico only places rules on driving between midnight and 5AM, that doesn't mean you want your son or daughter driving down a dangerous freeway at 11PM.)

3. Teach them to be alert and to recognize dangerous situations and how to avoid them. If a car or big truck is swerving, talk about how the driver may be distracted or impaired and what to do to avoid that vehicle. Teach them about big truck's blind spots. Tell them any experiences you have had that may help them. Talk about road rage and how to deal with it.

4. Lastly, talk about the big problem of underage drinking and driving. Teen drivers who drink tend to drive too fast and make very poor decisions. Go over what could happen. Tell them what it will be like if they are caught. Tell them what it will be like if someone is hurt.

Your teen may not want to listen or may say, "I know, I know," because it's in their nature. That doesn't mean you have to stop telling them these things. New drivers need help avoiding the dangers on our streets and freeways.

If your teen does get into an accident, you will probably be angry, upset and emotional. If it's a bad accident and your teen is seriously injured, your teen will need you; in turn, you may need a lawyer to pursue your options and any possible claims against the other driver. As a parent, you know that you don't always have all the answers. It's a good idea to reach out to others for help.

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