Let’s Bridge the Safety Gap in U.S. Driver Education

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), car crashes are the leading cause of death among American teenagers. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely to have a fatal crash than older drivers. The death rate for young male drivers is twice the rate for female drivers.

While teens represent about 14 percent of the population in the U.S., they account for nearly 30 percent of the bills for car crash injuries. More than 280,000 teens were treated and released from emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries they sustained in car crashes.

Teen drivers and tire safety

About 2.2 million car accidents occur each year in this country, and 12 percent of them involve inexperienced drivers and tire issues. Many accidents could be prevented if teens were better educated about proper car maintenance.

A new study by Michelin and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (IFA) found that most teen drivers know very little about tire safety. More than 50 percent of today’s teens don’t know how to change a tire, for example, and less than 50 percent check their tires at least once a month.

More than one-third of teens don’t even know how to check the tire pressure or examine the tread depth … let alone air up a tire, use a jack, or change a flat. They could also use help buying new tires for their cars.

To address this gap in driver education, Michelin and the IFA have launched a new campaign called “Beyond the Driving Test.”

Bridging the safety gap

The goal of the new campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of tire safety and maintenance as part of the nation’s driver education courses. It’s also designed to start a national conversation about teen drivers and tire safety.

The creators of the campaign plan to work with various groups to ensure that all 50 states include tire safety information in their driver education curriculum. The Michelin and FIA study surveyed American teens and their parents, and less than half of them believe driver education prepared teens to drive.

Very few states require classroom time devoted to car maintenance or tire safety. “Beyond the Driving Test” seeks to change that.

“Tires are the only parts of a car that touch the road, so it makes sense that driving safety begins with tire maintenance,” said Pete Selleck, the president of Michelin North America. “Driver’s education today has done many things well; however, it has generally ignored some key safety facts — driving with unsafe or improperly inflated tires — that can be life threatening.”

Beyond the driving test

Michelin and FIA hopes “Beyond the Driving Test” will reach all 50 states by 2020. In the meantime, they are working to distribute resources to educate teens about tire safety. They are also helping parents of teens improve their own car maintenance skills.

One of the new tools is a downloadable guide that drivers can store in their vehicle glove box. Another is a YouTube series of tire maintenance tutorials that features teen stars sharing their safety tips.

The hope is that these resources will keep more American teens from joining the dire annual statistics.

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