Turning sixteen is a birthday most teenagers anticipate as it is the age they can legally obtain their drivers license. Driving gives teens independence; they no longer need to depend on their parents to drive them to school and social activities. However, just because teenagers can legally drive after obtaining their drivers license, does not mean they drive responsibly or safely. Unfortunately motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in our nation today, with seven teens ages sixteen to nineteen dying every day from motor vehicle injuries in 2010. Per mile driven, teen drivers are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. One leading cause of fatal teen crashes is speeding, and tragically for two Lawrence County teens, police believe speed was a factor in their fatal crash earlier this week.
On Wednesday night, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said 17-year-old Rianna L. Watson crossed the center line while driving an SUV on Old Florence Pulaski Highway and crashed head-on into a box truck. Watson died at the scene while her passenger, 17-year-old Tanna Pesnell, was transported by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where she later passed away.
The driver of the box truck was uninjured in the collision.
Law enforcement officials are investigating the crash, but believe speed was a factor in the accident.
There are proven methods to help teens become safer and more responsible drivers and the most successful method is the graduated drivers licensing program. The comprehensive graduated drivers licensing program (GDL) has proven to reduce fatal and injury crashes of 16-year-old drivers by approximately 40%. GDL systems are designed to delay full licensure for teens to allow these young drivers to obtain their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions. Parents can help enforce their state’s GDL laws, and thus assist in keeping their teens safe while driving.