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Interactive website helps prepare teens for winter driving

Checkpoints program website screenshotANN ARBOR—With the official start of winter, Michigan will surely have days of snow and icy roads—making driving more dangerous for even the most experienced adult drivers, but especially for teen drivers.

According to several studies, all teen drivers are at greater risk of crashing compared to adults due to their young age and inexperience driving unsupervised. Many parents find this is a good time to think about things they can do to help keep teen drivers safe during every trip and to create a winter driving plan for teens, says Ray Bingham of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

"It's important that teens get experience driving on wet and snowy roads, but they need to get that experience in the safest possible conditions," Bingham said. "Teens' first experiences on wet or snowy roads should be with a parent present who can help them understand how to handle those road conditions. Even for teens who have some driving experience under their belt, it is good that parents help them understand where, when and how to be safe in winter weather."

To help keep their teens safe, more than 31,000 parents around the state are using a free, interactive website: http://www.saferdrivingforteens.org. The information and tools on the site help parents protect teens while they gain experience driving without adult supervision, and can be an especially important resource for winter driving, Bingham says.

This online program is presented by UMTRI and the Michigan Department of Community Health through a grant from the National Center for Injury Prevention Control, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The website features an easy-to-use interactive parent-teen driving agreement called Checkpoints that helps clearly establish where and when teens can drive without adult supervision, and how teens can earn increased driving privileges. Because the agreement is interactive, parents can use it now to establish driving privileges for winter and revisit it as their teen gains experience and weather conditions change. The website also includes information about Michigan's driving laws for teens and videos about using the agreement and talking with teens about safe driving.

The Checkpoints parent-teen driving agreement was created by Bruce Simons-Morton of the National Institutes of Health and has been tested multiple times in several states, including Michigan. Teens whose parents used the agreement received fewer tickets and reported less risky driving behaviors (e.g., speeding, tailgating, turning fast, unsafe lane changes, cutting in front of other vehicles, going through yellow or red lights).