Study: Vehicle crashes #1 cause of death for teens

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PALMETTO - Teenage drivers are involved in more crashes per mile than drivers of any other age group, and when the number of teenage passengers in the car increases so does the chance of a crash.  Now, one father is doing his best to help make local teens safer drivers by teaching them lessons they will never forget.

"I started Safe Teen Driver back in 2003, and it was shortly after the death of my wife and daughter who were killed by a young teenager that was illegally street racing in the middle of the day," said Bruce Murakami, the president and founder of a program that helps teach teenagers about safe driving in a number a ways.  It's because of his heartbreaking tragedy that Murakami spends a lot of his time helping prevent other parents and teenagers from suffering the same fate.

"For me, it was something about bringing awareness,"  Murakami said.  "Trying to educate these young people about making better choices when they get behind the wheel of a car."

Some of those choices include speeding, failure to wear a seat belt, late-night driving, and even alcohol use.

"We lose an average of 5,000 to 6,000 teenagers every year on the roads in America alone," Murakami said.  "And we're talking from 16 to 19 years olds."

Murakami conducts a class teaching teens about everything they need to know on the roads, starting with simply buckling up the moment they get in a vehicle.

"We put them through exercises like this in a safe environment where they actually get hands on experience on what can happen if they are texting and driving or drinking and driving," he added.

To see what they go through, I took a seat behind the wheel.  I had to put on goggles that impaired my vision as if I had been drinking, and then tried to drive through a series of cones.  I hit two which in reality could have been other cars or people.  I also took a sobriety test on a white line with the goggles on and try to pick up my keys, which I definitely failed.

But from those tests to taking the seat in a race car to learn about things such as acceleration and steering, Murakami hopes teenagers will get a good idea of the great responsibility that comes with the privilege of driving.

"This is the number 1 killer of our teenagers, and you can never teach them enough.  They need to learn at a very early age about making the right choices."

The Safe Teen Driver's Track Program will be free to parents and teenagers Sunday, October 14th at Anderson Race Park in Palmetto. 

For more information on the event or to get your teenager enrolled in the program, you can register on their website.