New program targets young drivers

Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of death for people 16 to 24 years old.

Crashes kill an average of 14,000 young adults in the United States every year.

Forty-seven percent of vehicular deaths for that age group are related to alcohol.

Those are just some of the statistics students in a new driver's education course are learning.

Alive At 25 is a driving survival course developed by the National Safety Council.

The Colorado Legislature has mandated that teens take the course if they want to earn a driver's license by age 16. Those who don't take any kind of driver's education training by age 16 may have to wait until they turn 17 to drive.

Some Yampa Valley residents have earned certification to teach the course, and they are working to offer it at least once a month, in Craig or Steamboat Springs.

"It's worthwhile to go. You'll learn a lot, it will shock you the information that will come of it," Rebecca Webb said.

Webb earned her certification to teach the course about one month ago, and she taught her first class Wednesday afternoon.

She described the course as very interactive, with the goal of presenting information to the students so they can draw their own conclusions about their driving.

"I wish I had had this class when I was 16. It's staggering to me, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to teach the class," Webb said.

A recent study by the Colorado Department of Transportation found that only 70 percent of teenage drivers wear seat belts, compared to a rate of 79 percent of adults.

"Our goal is to keep young drivers alive during the critical years when they are learning to drive and gaining experience behind the wheel. Clearly, seat-belt use for this age group must be improved if we are going to prevent so many needless deaths," Gov. Bill Owens said in a statement.

The study found that teens on the Western Slope use seat belts 63.7 percent of the time. Teens on the Front Range used seat belts 10 percent more often than Western Slope teens. But teens on the Eastern Plains used seat belts the least often, at a rate of 62.3 percent.

In Colorado, 55 teens died in car crashes during 2004, and 35 of those teens were not wearing seat belts.

Teen driving deaths occurred in 22 Colorado counties, including Moffat County.

The Alive At 25 class lasts for four hours and costs $30. Those interested in taking the class can register at www.alive-at-25.org.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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