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Mississippi Teens Learn Road Safety

By Daniel Cherry | Published 30 Mar 2011 05:37pm | comments

Mississippi is the most dangerous state in the nation for teen driving deaths. That's according to a recent report from Allstate. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports on a program passing through Mississippi aimed at lowering the number teenage driving fatalities.

At Terry High School students got some hands on experience with dangerous driving practices.They're participating in Ford Motor Company's Driving Skills for Life Program. The students got to drive real cars on a closed course in a variety of situations including simulated impaired driving and texting while driving.

"I'm learning about how difficult it is to text and drive. I know it's not safe. I do text and drive, but I don't have a problem with it. I'm pretty good at it, but they told me they're going to make me learn I'm not", says Breanna Pittman, a junior at Terry High School.

Experts say Inexperience mixed with distracted driving can be a deadly combination. That's why the program targets teens like Pittman. Ford Driving program manager Jim Graham says the most important part is letting teens experience the affects of driving dangerously before they learn the hard way.

"We'll let them spin out. We'll let them see what it feels like and then we'll teach them how to control that spin. So we do it in an atmosphere that's safe and that way when they do encounter something on the road they'll have an idea of what to do. Usually they'll panic. We try to tell them don't panic. There's a right and a wrong way to get out of a situation and there's no substitute for experience."

Graham says young people are more likely to overestimate their driving abilities and that can lead to disaster. Senior Kristen Saltzman says sometimes a reminder is what she needs.

"My Mom always tells me, 'You always think that nothing is going to happen to you, but it can always happen to you. You aren't that lucky. It can happen to anybody.'"

Nearly six thousand teenagers die each year in traffic accidents nationwide. In 2009 nearly 40 teenagers died on Mississippi roads. Daniel Cherry...MPB News. 

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