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Study reveals need for interactive, realistic drivers' education

Researchers at Baylor University have studied a supplemental drivers' education program meant for risky teen drivers, and they found that its interactive, reality-based elements actually help improve teens' risk awareness and driving behaviors. California residents are most likely unfamiliar with the program, called the Texas Reality Education for Drivers program, but they will be interested to hear what it involves.

The RED program is a one-day, six-hour program set in a hospital. Teen participants are guided by a nurse through the hospital's emergency rooms, ICU and morgue, and they converse with health care staffers there who have had experience dealing with car crash victims. Added to this are the traditional lectures, videos and discussions. The participants also engage in activities like developing a contract with their parents and a safe driving plan.

At the end of the program, the 21 teens who were part of the study showed a greater awareness of what driving behaviors are risky and what factors can influence them. For example, they recognized the role of peer pressure in drinking and driving.

Parental monitoring also increased after participation in the program; parents developed additional rules and laid down consequences for breaking them, but they were also less likely to enforce those consequences. This may be because the teens were less likely to break the rules.

Of course, this does not cover all the factors that lead teens to risky behaviors behind the wheel. If a car accident occurs because of a negligent teen, the other side may be able to file an injury claim. The victim may have contributed to the accident, but this will lower the potential settlement without making the claim void. In any case, it may be helpful to retain a lawyer because auto insurance companies are aggressive in denying claims. A lawyer might hire investigators and other experts to bolster the case.

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