The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this week unveiled a new campaign that challenges parents to discuss five critical driving practices with their teenage drivers that can have the greatest beneficial impacts in the event of a crash.

"Safety is our highest priority, especially when it comes to teens, who are often our least experienced drivers," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The ‘5 to Drive’ campaign gives parents and teens a simple, straightforward checklist that can help them talk about good driving skills and most importantly, prevent a tragedy before it happens."

The "5 to Drive" campaign encourages parents to visit SaferCar.gov and discuss with their teens one safety topic each day during National teen driver safety week. The "5 to Drive" campaign topics are:

1.No cell phone use or texting while driving,
2.No extra passengers,
3.No speeding,
4.No alcohol, and
5.No driving or riding without a seat belt.

The list is designed to counteract poor driving decisions that have contributed heavily to the high death rate among teen drivers, as evidenced by:
?In 2011, over half of the teen occupants of passenger vehicles who died in crashes were unrestrained;
?Speeding was a factor in 35 percent of fatal crashes involving a teen driver;
?Twelve percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time; and
?n 2011, 505 people nationwide died in crashes in which drivers between 14 and 18 years old had alcohol in their systems, despite the fact that all states have Zero Tolerance Laws for drinking and driving under age 21.

Peer pressure is also a contributing factor in teen crash deaths. When the teen driver in a fatal crash was unrestrained, almost four-fifths of that driver’s teen passengers were unrestrained as well. Moreover, one NHTSA study found that a teenage driver was 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger and three times more likely with multiple teenager passengers.

"Inexperience and immaturity, combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving, and other teen passengers contribute to the high fatality rate of teens involved in fatal crashes," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "I encourage all parents of teenagers to have an open discussion with their teen about the dangers common among young drivers and to make sure they use our '5 To Drive' program to develop the necessary skills to drive safely every trip, every time."

Poor decisions among teen drivers can lead to crashes and fatalities at any time of the day, but fatal teen driver crashes are most frequent between 3 and 8 p.m., and remain high until midnight.

Take the time to encourage conscientiousness and good driving habits... Hopefully, they'll keep our kids out of harm's way.