Children’s of Alabama and UAB now offering virtual teen-driving classes.

Local News

This Living Local segment is sponsored by Children’s of Alabama.

Birmingham, Ala. (CBS 42 Living Local) – Children’s of Alabama “Safe Kid’s” and UAB’s “TRIP Laboratory” programs have been updated in compliance with Covid-19 restrictions.

The creation of virtual driving-education programs is something Marie Crew and Dr. Despina Stavrinos call a “silver lining” to the pandemic.

These new virtual classes for teenagers can reach more classrooms around the community. Free videos can be used as a resource for parents and teachers.

Dr. Stavrinos, the founding director of UAB’s TRIP Laboratory program, says she has dedicated her career to understanding and preventing car crashes.

“We focus on teen drivers because they are the most inexperienced drivers on the road,” said Stavrinos.

She established the program back in 2009, and outreach efforts started in 2017.

“The riskiest time for teens is in those first months of independent driving. We do find that there is a sense of overconfidence and their ability. They feel that they are invincible. Teens’ brains are still very cognitively immature and have not completed development.” said Stavrinos.

She says for anyone who thinks they can multitask while driving, “you can’t. This is especially true for teens because their brains are still developing and will continue to grow into their 20s and potentially early 30s.”

The Children’s “SAFE Kids” teen driving program has adapted to a virtual format that aims to be engaging and fun for students. Crew says the program can “go anywhere in the state where a school has Internet of Wi-Fi. We can travel as far as Mobile or Huntsville.”

Children’s of Alabama sends drowsy and drunk driving goggles to the schools ahead of time so that hands-on resources are onsite during the program.

“We also have a game called Cahoots that the kids can play. We get to see their knowledge of what they learned that day, but at the same time, it’s fun and engaging. Our whole goal is to make it like we are in the room,” Crew said.

Alabama law requires students driving to complete at least 50 hours of supervised driving.

However, Crew recommends “that they have more. It is proven that the more hours that they drive when they’re supervised, the less likely they are to get into a crash or have a serious issue with their vehicle,” Crew said.

Stavrinos also urges parents to be good models while driving.

“As soon as kids can be forward-facing out of their car seats, they are watching and learning what is safe.” Stavrinos added that it is “just as equally important to let ‘new drivers’ practice in diverse settings. As they get experience, increase those challenging conditions while you were in the car with them.”

Crew encourages parents to create a driving contract with their teen drivers. “Negotiate what things are and are not allowed when they’re driving,” Crew said. “A good way to do that is to have a parent-teen agreement. We have one on out website at Children’s. We have data that shows that teens that have a parent-teen driving contract have had less risky driving behaviors.”

Learn the unique ways each program can benefit the young driver in your life!

Visit ChildrensAL.org/Safe-Teen-Driving-Toolkit and TripLaboratory.com.

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