Safety advocates urge parents to give teens more driving practice

LAS VEGAS -- In less than a week, many teenagers, especially juniors and seniors, will be heading back to school behind the wheel.

Driving is rite of passage for many kids, but that also comes with potential dangers.

According to the Nevada Department of Public Safety, in 2012, teen drivers between the age of 16 and 20 were involved in more than 7,100 crashes; those numbers are just in Clark County alone. In more than 4,000 of those accidents, the driver was the one at fault.

A lot of kids in high school are counting down the days when they could pull their cars right into that campus parking lot but one nearly 16 year old says he is waiting a bit to get his license, and with good reason.

Rocco Sant is turning 16 in two days. He is not sure yet what he wants for a present but it is not going to be a driver's license.

"I don't want to put myself in a situation that is unsafe and I don't know how to get out of it, especially when I am driving alone," Rocco said.

Rocco says he still gets nervous behind the wheel and it all started when he was just 8 years old. That is the year his 15 year old cousin Olivia was killed in a car crash.

"For the most part I was really sad and distraught and now I know that driving is something I should take very seriously," Rocco said.

"A lot of people lost that day. She was a friend to a lot of people," Olivia's mother Teresa Brandise said.

Brandise says in November 2008, Olivia was in a car with several other teens.

The driver was 16 and speeding when he lost control of the truck, hit a wall and flipped over.

"He wasn't a safe driver and I hold his parents accountable for that," Brandise said.

Since the crash, Brandise has worked with safety advocates like Erin Breen to speak out for teen driving safety.

As part of Zero Fatalities Safety Week, Breen is urging parents to talk about distracted driving with their kids and get them as much practice as possible before getting on the road.

"You have a lifetime that you want them here so a few months of additional practice behind the wheel is the smartest decision you can make as a parent," Breen said.

Rocco says along with his parents, his aunt passes on good advice when it comes to driving but the best lesson may have come from Olivia.

"It is bittersweet. I feel that I take away a lot of information from it but of course I would rather have my cousin here," Rocco said.

Safety experts say while talking with your kids about driving it is always a good idea to take advantage of the technology that is out there.

Many cell phone apps now let you disable your kids smart phones when the GPS system detects the car are in motion.


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