Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers aged 15-24 in the United States. South Carolina is no exception. In 2016, SC lost 175 young drivers to fatal collisions.

National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 15-21, 2017 and experts say parents can be the biggest influencers on teens choices behind the wheel. They says it's important to talk to teens about the biggest risks.

Alive at 25 says the top risks for teens include:

  1. Alcohol- Nationally in 2015, almost 1 out of 5 teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in a fatal crash had been drinking.
  2. Seat belts- Teens have the lowest seat belt usage of any age group, although buckling up is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. Of the 175 young drivers that were killed in SC in 2016, 62% were unbelted that had access to a seat belt.
  3. Speeding- Almost 1/3 (29%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.
  4. Distracted Driving- In 2015, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, 10 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
  5. Passengers- Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to deadly consequences. Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. A teen driver with 3 teen passenger is 3 times more likely to involved in a fatal collision.
  6. Drowsy Driving- Teens have a lot on their plates these days between school, studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with their friends. Sleep tends to take a backseat to their other priorities which is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers typically display the same behaviors as an impaired driver.

Alive at 25 says parents can set the example for young drivers by showing teens their own safe driving habits. Also, talk to them about the risks and the severity of the possible consequences. Experts say it needs to be year round conversation, not just during National Teen Driver Safety Week.

Education is key when it comes to keeping our young drivers safe. One way we do this is through the Alive at 25 program put out by the National Safety Council. It’s an interactive 4.5 hour course that focuses on the attitudes, behaviors, and decision making paradigms that young drivers exhibit behind the wheel, taught by current or prior certified Law Enforcement and First Responders.

Our Southeastern Chapter- National Safety Council, runs the Alive at 25 program in 131 High School across the state and it’s also used in 15 of the 16 Judicial Circuits for PTI and AEP. More than 147,000 students have gone through the program to date.