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Lessons for teen drivers

Published 9:20pm Thursday, April 25, 2013

The tragic death of Windsor High School senior Savannah Scheil reminds us of the fragility of life.

Savannah, a happy, bright 17-year-old who would have graduated in a few weeks and set out to explore a lifetime of unlimited possibilities, died when her car struck a tree on Lake Prince Road as she drove home from work late Sunday night.

Tragedies just like it occur far too frequently in this country. Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of all Americans from ages 1 to 34, according to the Allstate Foundation. And teen drivers crash four times more often than any other age group.

Police haven’t disclosed the cause of Savannah’s accident, but there’s been no indication to this point of any wrongdoing by the young driver. She had just completed the night shift at sweetFrog frozen yogurt shop on Main Street in Suffolk and was headed home for a few hours of sleep before the beginning of one of her final weeks at Windsor High. Any number of things could have distracted her and caused her to veer off the road.

Regardless of the circumstances that killed Savannah, the lesson for other young drivers is the need for an abundance of caution when operating a motor vehicle.

Teendriving.com offers the following tips, some of which are commonsensical but bear repeating nonetheless:

  • Watch out for deer and other large and small animals. If you see a deer approaching, slow down and flash your lights repeatedly. Often, the deer will run away. Also, if you see one deer, watch out for others close by. They often travel in pairs or groups.
  • If you get an insect like a fly or a bee in your car, don’t try to kill it while you’re driving. It could take your attention off the road and you could crash. Instead, pull over and park as soon as possible and get the bug out of the car, or ask a passenger to take care of it.
  • Turn your headlights on anytime you need to turn your windshield wipers on — in rain, fog, sleet, freezing rain or snow. It will help your visibility — and also help other drivers see you.
  • Watch out for severe-weather warnings before you drive. If a strong storm comes while you’re on the road and it’s raining too hard to see, try to find a safe place to pull over until the worst of the rain is over.
  • Don’t use cruise control in wet or slippery conditions. The cruise control may apply more throttle if the drive wheels start to slip.
  • Never try to fit more people in the car than you have seatbelts for them to use.
  • Obey the speed limits. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excess speed is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
  • Don’t drive like you own the road; drive like you own the car.
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