Teen driver

Teaching a teenager how to drive and then launching them out onto the asphalt jungle is a frightening and humbling experience.

You don’t want to do it, but you know it has to happen. The best you can do is prepare them for this great and chaotic thing called driving.

There are no guarantees that a well-guided young driver will make it through the grind safely and become an experienced, good driver. But a solid foundation helps.

AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety has an eye on the safety of young drivers, and a recent report highlights the challenges they face and the importance of teaching, real-world experience and easing teens into driving.

The foundation highlighted some contributing factors that can prove risky, such as letting other teens ride with a young driver. The report found that when other teens are in a car with a young driver, the fatality rate for all others on the roads increases 51 percent.

When a teen driver has older passengers, that fatality rate drops 8 percent.

In 2016, AAA reported, “teen drivers were involved in more than 1 million police-reported crashes resulting in more than 3,200 deaths” nationwide.

That year, 69 deaths were connected to teen drivers in Virginia, AAA reported. A total of 761 people died in crashes throughout Virginia in 2016.

While teens are connected to only a minority of deadly crashes, there are fewer of those young drivers on the roads and many of their crashes probably could be avoided with better teaching and more experience.

“Strong coaching and diversity in practice driving sessions are key when teens have their learners permit. And, once teens have their license, consistent parental involvement is essential,” said Jennifer Ryan, director of AAA state relations.

AAA offers several tips to help prepare young drivers:

Require teens to log at least 100 hours of supervised practice driving with a parent before driving solo.

Begin by practicing driving in low-risk situations and gradually move to situations that are more complex: highways, nighttime, driving in the rain, and on challenging roadways.

Allow no more than one non-family passenger under the age of 20 to ride with the teen driver during the first six months of driving.

Use slightly different routes each practice session.

Practice adjusting speed based on three factors: visibility, on-road traffic and different road conditions.

AAA offers resources for young drivers at teendriving.aaa.com.

New Thornburg overpass to open

The Mudd Tavern Road overpass in Spotsylvania County is slated to open Tuesday after the morning commuter rush.

Crews have been working on the Interstate 95 interchange in Thornburg since late 2017. Part of the work involves replacing the overpass with a wider structure and revamped ramps.

On Tuesday, Mudd Tavern Road traffic will be shifted onto the newly constructed I–95 overpass, local Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Darragh Copley Frye said in a news release.

Following the traffic switch, crews will begin demolishing the existing, two-lane, structurally deficient bridge. Construction also will continue on the remaining interchange improvements.

One lane will remain open in each direction on Mudd Tavern Road until construction is complete in September 2019.

When the $22.4 million project is done, the new span will have four travel lanes along with turn lanes for the on- and off-ramps. There also will be a raised sidewalk and lighting.

This project includes improvements to the ramps, Mudd Tavern Road east of I-95 and Mallard Road.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436 sshenk@freelancestar.com

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