Push for safe driving among teens a year-round effort, school leaders say

James Madison High School hosting safe driving event for students

Push for safe driving among teens a year-round effort, school leaders say

SAN ANTONIO – Educators and transportation officials across the country have spent this week spreading the message about safe driving during National Teen Driver Safety Week.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens ages 15-18.

“A ton of my kids are going to be driving soon and are driving now,” said Eric Wernli, principal of James Madison High School. “I want to make sure that they get here to campus and get back to their families safe and sound.”

Even though the week is wrapping up, school administrators say it is a message they will continue to drive home year-round. James Madison High School is hosting a safe driving program for students next week, reviving a program paused because of the pandemic.

“Last year, we didn’t have as many people driving on campus,” Wernli said. “It wasn’t quite as big of a focus. But now, you know, we’re back to over 3,000 kids, and so there’s going to be a ton of kids driving.”

There will be interactive exhibits for students to explore, including an example of a vehicle struck by a train. That’s an important lesson for the students, as an active railroad crossing is just down the street from the school.

“We want to be sure that the students and the community are aware about the hazards of driving across the railroad tracks or around the handrails when a train is coming, so educating them on making sure that they’re safe and aware of their surroundings at all times,” said Janie Lopez, with the school’s PTSA.

The San Antonio Municipal Court has these reminders for teen drivers, and their parents, about safe driving behaviors:

1. No alcohol or drugs. There is a zero-tolerance law in Texas for drivers under 21 years old.

2. No cellphone use. Cellphone use is prohibited by the Texas GDL and for all drivers under the age of 18.

3. No drowsy driving. The typical teen does not get enough sleep every night, making them more at risk when driving.

4. No speeding. Speeding is one of the top three mistakes that teens make when learning to drive.

5. No passengers. Passengers under 21 in the car are one of the biggest distractions for teen drivers.

6. Always wear a seatbelt! Most fatalities involving teen death are caused by not buckling up.

While there has been a decline in the number of teen driver fatalities since 2009, there were still 1,603 fatalities in 2019. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, there were 2,042 fatalities overall from crashes involving teen drivers.

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About the Author:

Samuel King anchors traffic during GMSA and reports on transportation and mobility issues across the San Antonio region. He joined the KSAT 12 news team in 2020 from KUT in Austin. Samuel was born in Queens, spent time growing up in South Alabama and graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.