Motor vehicle crashes is the leading cause of death among U.S. teens each year, with six teenagers between the ages 16–19 losing their lives each day. The Hawaii State Department of Education will hold its annual “Operation Driver Excellence” event to educate Hawaii Island high school students about safe driving.
The Sunday, February 25 event at the Maui High School campus in Kahului will run from 8 a.m. to noon. The community event – sponsored by DTRIC Insurance and Par Hawaii – is free and open to any interested students and parents who want to get free traffic safety tips and resources.
Similar events will be held on Hawaii Island and Oahu later this year.
For more information on how high school students can participate in the February 25 Maui event, contact Tim Jeffs at Maui High School at (808) 727-4177.
In 2015, 2,333 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes, according to the U.S. Centers Disease Control and Prevention.
National statistics show that the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16-19-year-olds than any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
“Driver inexperience, distracted driving, speeding and other forms of dangerous driving behavior are the leading cause of serious accidents among teens,” said Jan Meeker, resource teacher for the state Department of Education’s driver education program. “Proper instruction on safe driving through driver education programs and events like Operation Driver Excellence can help prevent these tragedies.”
The March 17 event will feature several learning stations on tire safety, blind zones around commercial vehicles, properly loading and hitching a trailer, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and impaired driving from the effects of alcohol, marijuana and concussions.
The half-day session will also provide students optional hands-on driving courses to improve their safety while they are on the road, including:
- Driving Skills Course – Precision driving, perpendicular parking, reverse perpendicular parking, and parallel parking challenges are designed to sharpen a young driver’s skills.
- Distracted Driving Course – Designed to give students and parents a distracted driving experience in a safe and controlled environment.
- Collision Avoidance Course – Allows the driver to experience having to avoid an obstacle in the middle of a simulated road.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a video analysis and police reports showed that 58 percent of teen vehicle crashes or nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, were the result of distractions. The most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver included:
- Interacting with one or more passengers: 15 percent of crashes
- Cell phone use: 12 percent of crashes
- Looking at something in the vehicle: 10 percent of crashes
- Looking at something outside the vehicle: 9 percent of crashes
- Singing or moving to music: 8 percent of crashes
- Grooming: 6 percent of crashes
- Reaching for an object: 6 percent of crashes
“Operation Driver Excellence is now in its 30th year, and this event is needed more than ever to deal with the dangers of distracted driving. Today, text messaging, taking phone calls while driving, even when hands free, and scrolling through emails have become acceptable behaviors while driving in our ever-increasingly busy world,” said Jim Yates, Par Hawaii president, who oversees the statewide network of Hele and 76-branded retail stations and logistics operations. “We want to instill good driving habits with drivers while they are young and still learning how to navigate the road.”
Michele Saito, DTRIC Insurance president and chief executive officer, added: “Traffic crashes are especially tragic when it involves young drivers who are just starting their lives. We encourage both parents and teen drivers to participate in Operation Driver Excellence, so the whole family can work together on honing a teenager’s safe driving skills.”
“Operation Driver Excellence” began 30 years ago by the state Department of Education, Hawaii Traffic Safety Education Association, and Par Hawaii’s predecessor companies. The goal was to create a friendly competition among Hawaii’s high school teen drivers to test their knowledge of safe driving. Originally, Oahu hosted a statewide competition to provide opportunities for high schools to showcase their best driver education student’s knowledge of safe driving through a written test, ability to maneuver through several obstacle courses, and a road test.
To address the growing challenges of safe driving, DTRIC Insurance joined forces with Par Hawaii, and today, they serve as the two primary sponsors of Operation Driver Excellence. With support of the two companies, the program expanded with separate events on Maui and Hawaii Island to ensure easier access for neighbor island students and their parents. The two companies, along the Hawaii State Driver Education Program, are also the sponsors of the “Stop If You Love Me Campaign”, in which elementary, middle and high school students across the state are working to change driving behaviors of teens and adults. The campaign, which took place in February, involves public service announcements, sign waving and other activities to urge drivers to reduce risky behaviors while on the road.