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Young adults gain independence through a series of milestones throughout their youth. But few such milestones are more anxiously anticipated than the day when teenagers earn their driver’s licenses.

For teenagers, a driver’s license means the difference between being at the mercy of adults for transportation and being able to set off on their own. Even though a license to drive indicates a teen has passed the written and road tests necessary to drive without adults present, newly minted licensed drivers may still not be ready to drive without supervision. In fact, statistics indicate that teenagers may benefit from a little extra instruction and guidance before they’re given the keys to the family car.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among American teens. According to State Farm, young Canadians represent only 13 percent of the licensed driving population, but account for approximately 20 percent of the motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries across the country. The highest per-driver and per-distance fatality rates are found among drivers between the ages of 16 and 19. According to Geico, one in five 16-year-old drivers has an accident in their first year of driving.

Teenagers who want to drive and stay safe on the road can employ these safety tips.

· Keep an open attitude. Consider increasing road time under the instruction of an adult and learn from their guidance. Ask for help if there is a driving skill you haven’t mastered, such as merging onto a busy highway or parallel parking.

· Limit other teen passengers. The CDC says the presence of teen passengers increases unsupervised teen drivers’ crash risk. Until you are secure behind the wheel, avoid the temptation to give a bunch of friends a ride.

· Stick to daylight driving. Geico says the risk of a fatal crash is three times greater at night for every mile driven. Reduced visibility and reaction time can contribute to crashes. Gain ample experience driving during daytime hours and make sure you are completely comfortable behind the wheel before setting out at night.

· Practice in all conditions. Safe driving involves making smart decisions even when driving conditions are poor. With an adult in the passenger seat, practice driving in inclement weather, only venturing out in such conditions on your own when you feel ready to do so.

· Turn your phone off. Smartphones put all motorists at risk of accident. In the time it takes drivers to look at incoming texts, they may have driven several hundred feet without their eyes on the road. Make it a policy to turn smartphones off while driving.

· Slow down. Speed is a common factor in automotive crashes involving teens. Follow posted speed limits at all times.

· Drive unimpaired. Do not take drugs or consume alcohol or other substances that impair your ability to drive.

Remember in Tennessee it is against the law for drivers under the age of 18 to talk on the phone while driving, even if they are using a hands free device.

If you’re in the market for a vehicle for your teen driver, be sure to visit the great folks at Rusty Wallace Ford in Dandridge. They’ll let you and your teen test drive and find the vehicle they’re most comfortable steering, while also helping you find the safest vehicle possible for your young driver. And of course, help get you the very best deal to fit your budget.

-Sponsored by Rusty Wallace Ford.