It beats out every other disease and external factor as the leading cause of death for 15-18 year olds across the country.
And Lathrop Police Services is doing everything it can to ensure that driving – a rite of passage for many teenagers and a mark of entering adulthood – remains as safe as it possibly can be for students throughout the community thanks to a series of programs that focus on eliminating the key contributing factors in crashes.
Last Monday Lathrop Police Chief James Hood reminded the Lathrop City Council that Oct. 15-21 is National Teen Driver Safety Week, and reaffirmed the department’s commitment to keeping drivers safe on roadways by promoting educational opportunities as often as possible.
Last year 3,500 teenagers died and 359,000 were injured in crashes nationwide, and while teenage drivers historically have a higher rate of crashes when compared to other licensed driver groups, according to AAA, the majority of those crashes involve distracting behavior like looking at a cell phone or tending to other passengers in the vehicle.
According to Lathrop Police Administrative Lieutenant Toby Farnsworth, the department utilizes a number of avenues to reach teenagers who might be getting behind the wheel to remind them of the responsibility that goes along with the privilege, and encourages parents to talk with their children at length about how they can stay safe.
“Distracted driving and impaired driving are major concerns, and these are the conversations that need to be taking place at home,” said Farnsworth. “We have the Junior Police Academy which is informative to those who participate during the summer sessions, and we participate in the Every 15 Minutes program that now includes distracted driving as an issue that teens need to be conscious of, and we do these things because driving is a huge responsibility.”
Lathrop Police also have a pair of school resource officers – Deputy Manuel Andrade and Deputy Chris Matsuoka – who work closely with students in Lathrop schools, and Farnsworth encourages parents who have more questions to search for resources on the internet through organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving with both offer tips on how to talk about important safety issues relating to driving with teenagers.
Farnsworth said that the department has received grant money in the past for targeted seatbelt enforcement, and plans are in the works to secure funding that will allow for the same kind of proactive patrolling to focus on distracted driving – which in California means any use of a handheld device of any kind in addition to other forms.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.