Safe Driving Tips for Teens Heading Back to School

By: Jacqueline Gillan, Gina LaGuardia and Precision Tune

When 'summer break' ends, thousands of college students will be driving back-to-school and an urgent plea to be safe on America's highways is being issued from CollegeBound Teen Magazine.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 7,452 fatal crashes involving young drivers (16-20) in 2003. While the number of highway deaths overall rose 0.4% in 2003, fatalities in crashes involving drivers ages 16 through 20 rose 1.3%, according to NHTSA. Teenage drivers are involved in fatal crashes at twice the rate of drivers overall, and have a fatality rate four times that of drivers ages 25 to 69. Helping propel the death figures is an "explosion of teen drivers on the road," says Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a consumer group. The Federal Highway Administration says the U.S. had 9.3 million fully licensed drivers age 16 to 19 in 2003, its most recent figures, 7% more than in 1993; growth has been substantially greater in the number with learner's permits or "intermediate" licenses.

According to the Car Care Council, poor vehicle maintenance is responsible for five percent of road accidents involving 2,600 deaths and 100,000 disabling injuries each year. "Our goal is to educate students on car care, safe driving practices and give them incentives to have their vehicles inspected before they drive back to college," explains Gina LaGuardia, editor-in-chief of CB Teen.

CB Teen Magazine and PTAC have launched their third annual 'Student Pass' program to get teens to jump on the 'Safety Rules' bandwagon. This year, Hey U.G.L.Y., Inc., NFP, the national nonprofit that helps teens with self esteem issues has joined the effort. The program features safe driving tips, auto care safety guidelines and a Student Pass Savings Club card available online at, redeemable at participating PTAC centers. The card entitles students to a comprehensive pre-trip vehicle safety inspection and premium oil change at the lowest advertised price, plus 10% off any additional recommended services.

"We've also created a Safety Rules Survey that asks important questions about teen driving habits and a sweepstakes where teens can vie to win a new computer by going to", says LaGuardia. "We want to encourage teens to get their cars thoroughly inspected before they head out on the road. A comprehensive inspection can help increase the safety of vehicles and preclude troublesome, costly highway breakdowns. Such an investment empowers teens to assert their independence and responsibility -- another large part of the college preparation process."

According to the Car Care Council, "..tow truck operators along Interstate highways see all too many travelers forced to return home ahead of schedule due to car trouble. The situation usually means more than just a repair bill. It can involve towing charges, lodging and a possible rental car. Add to that the cost of extra phone calls, meals and general inconvenience, and the ordeal becomes expensive."

Joel Burrows, a.k.a. "The Car Doctor," and vice president of training and R&D at PTAC advises teens to make it a habit to walk around their cars and visually inspect their tires. He recommends adjusting all mirrors and checking windshield wipers before putting the car in gear. "Poor vision and inadequate lights during a rain storm can be a deadly combination, as can adjusting these vital components while engaged in driving the vehicle," explains Burrows.

He also urges drivers to buckle up and follow posted speed limits. "Students need to be well-rested before they head out for a long trip back to college," he said. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, "..Every year, falling asleep while driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 40,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities. These crashes happen between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., involve a single vehicle and a sober driver traveling alone, with the car leaving the roadway without any attempt to avoid the crash."

The Car Doctor is unswerving in his message that there are no circumstances when anyone should get behind the wheel if he or she has been drinking, is on drugs or is angry or upset. Drivers need to be fully alert and focused on the road and other vehicles in their vicinity to insure a safe trip. And, while having a cell phone is an important safety tool in case of an accident, don't drive and talk. Burrows also advises students to keep the volume of their radio at a level that enables them to hear emergency vehicles. Safe driving is not only a habit; it's a way of life. Observing proper safe driving and vehicle maintenance can lead to an enjoyable experience for you and your car, according to the Precision Tune Auto Care Car Doctor.

Rule #1: Don't forget to wipe! Operate the windshield washer system before driving. The windshield wipers should clear the windshield in one full cycle.

Rule #2: Don't talk and drive! Having a cell phone is an important safety tool in case of an accident, but talking and driving don't mix. Drivers need to be fully alert and focused on the road.

Rule #3: Do get to know your vehicle! Information on your vehicle is found in the owner's manual. Remember, it's OK to READ before you DRIVE!

Rule #4: Relax and Enjoy the Ride! Remember, fast aggressive driving, on average, saves only 30 to 40 seconds!

Rule #5: Lighting ... Your Communication Link to Other Drivers! Once a month perform an inspection of all external lighting. The ignition must be turned to the "ON" position to check lighting such as the blinkers.

Rule #6: Tire Safety! Get into the habit of walking around your vehicle prior to getting in. Look at the tires' inflation level, do they all look the same? Proper tire inflation specifications are located on the door jam, gas cap door or trunk deck lid. Learn the proper procedure for changing a tire.

Rule #7: Checking The Engine Oil! The vehicle should be on a flat level surface with the engine stopped. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before checking the oil.

Rule #8: Checking the Engine Coolant! Do not raise the hood if steam is visible!! If the radiator cap must be removed, the vehicle should be COLD! Remember...engine coolant can be very hot!

Rule #9: Regularly Check the Transmission, Brake, Power Steering & Washer Fluid!

Rule #10: Regularly Check the Clutch Master Cylinder Fluid! Clutch fluid can usually be seen through a clear reservoir. Most clutch fluid reservoirs have a Min. and Max. mark. If the clutch fluid level is not visible, the vehicle may not shift into gear easily.

Rule #11: Adjusting Mirrors: A Good Reflection On You! The rear view mirror should be adjusted and checked both in the day and night position. Side mirrors should be adjusted such that your vehicle is almost not visible. This helps to reduce what is called the "BLIND SPOT".

Rule #12: Safety items to have on hand: first aid kit, flashlight, blanket, flares, water, ice scraper, emergency phone numbers, equipment to change a flat tire.

Precision Tune Auto Care has been a pioneer for more than 25 years in advanced diagnostic training and development, and is the one stop shop for scheduled maintenance, service and repairs for autos, light trucks, SUV's and Minivans. Servicing 2.5 million vehicles each year, PTAC franchises more than 440 state-of-the-art professional service facilities throughout the world and is a leader in educating the driving public on the importance of car care for personal safety and the health of the environment.

Since 1987, The CollegeBound Network has worked in partnership with America's colleges and universities, Fortune 1000 companies, military branches, and leading educational companies to help students achieve their academic and lifestyle goals. The CollegeBound Network's suite of products includes CollegeBound Teen Magazine,, CollegeBound Events, StudentPak Direct Mail, and CollegeBound Email NewsFlash. An independent survey also found CB Teen to be the most popular college-advice magazine among high school guidance counselors.

Hey U.G.L.Y. Inc., NFP, is a 501C3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower teens with self-esteem building tools, to help them counter challenges such as eating disorders, bullying, violence, substance abuse and suicide.

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