Teen driving deaths in Alabama among highest in nation

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Department of Public Health officials say a study shows Alabama is second only to Mississippi for the most teen driving fatalities.

They're launching a new website and campaign to inform parents and teens that it's illegal for anyone under 18 to use a cell phone while driving.

Go catch a movie at your local theater, and you're likely to see a new ad before the film.

They educate teenagers on what's legal in the driver's seat.

Harden Spencer knows what not to do behind the wheel.

"I try to avoid texting or avoid answering my phone unless it's urgent," he says.

Spencer's not surprised to hear Alabama has a high teenage driver fatality rate.

"A lot of my friends don't think much of texting or talking on the phone while they're driving or whatever, or fumbling with cd's or something on the floor."

Spencer says his parents make the driving rules.

"No texting, no talking on the phone," says Lester Spencer, Harden's father.

He stresses safety especially since his other two children are often in Harden's car.

"We do have very strict rules about telephone use and who can ride with him. Even now, we only allow one teenager in the car that's not a family member."

The Spencer family's rules fall right in line with an amendment the state of Alabama passed just this year enhancing a 2002 teen driving law.

"They can only have one non-family passenger in the car while driving," says Richard Burleson, Director of the Alabama Child Death Review System.

Not only that, teenagers under 18 are now prohibited from using their phones while driving.

"No cell phones, no texting, no iPods, no handheld GPS, and that's the law statewide for all graduated licensees, all these 16, and some 17 year old drivers who fall under the graduated license law in Alabama already," adds Burleson.

The new teen driving website and ad campaign explain all the changes and raise awareness about teen deaths.

Still Lester Spencer says safety comes down to proper parenting.

"To set those limits and enforce them," he says.

State officials started the new campaign because many people didn't know the laws had changed.

According to studies, drivers between 16 and 19 are twice as likely to crash as those between 20 and 24.

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