“I’m taking my driver’s test and I’m very scared because I’m nervous. I don’t know if I’m going to pass or not,” says 16 year-old Hope Harrison, preparing to take her driving test in Lowndes County.
While Hope Harrison is concerned about passing her driving test, her father Greg has other worries. Over a decade ago, his 17 year-old daughter was killed in a car accident.
“She was driving and fell asleep at the wheel, hit a culvert and killed herself. So it’s pretty nerve wrecking to think that this one is going to get her license,” says Harrison.
Harrison says he’s tried to prepare Hope for driving. He’s given her lessons and talked about the dangers of distracted driving.
“We let her know, no texting or talking on the phone while driving. Now if she’ll do that we’ll be ok,” says Harrison.
Getting a drivers license is a rite of passage for teenagers. Still, the CDC reports car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Sixteen to 19 year-olds are three times more likely to be in a fatal car crash than other drivers.
Hope Harrison isn’t alone. Houston Rood passed his driving test and knows driving is serious business.
“I feel as long as I follow the rules of the road and don’t try to show out, then I’ll be fine. I would never use my phone while I’m driving because it puts my life at risk and it puts other people’s,” says Rood.
Graduated drivers license programs are credited with reducing fatal teen car crashes by up to 40%. Lowndes County License Examiner Nellie Griffin says conversations at home can also have a major impact.
“I think the parents should make sure that their teenagers are aware of all the possibilities of how to handle themselves. How to make sure that they are not using the cell phones, that they are not texting, that they are aware of what’s around them,” says Griffin.
Studies also show teen drivers are more at risk because they drive faster and are unable to quickly recognize hazards on the road.
According to Wallet Hub dot com, Mississippi ranks 49th in the nation in overall safety rankings for teen drivers.