Are you a teenage driver or do you have one in your house? There are over 200,000,000 licensed drivers in the United States today and about 6% of them are teens. As a group, they are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal accident and more likely to get a traffic citation, except possibly for those 75 years and older. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for those in the age group from 16 to 21 years old. Some of this may be due to inexperience, but there are certainly other factors involved in the high proportion of teen deaths in motor vehicle accidents. Authorities like the National Highway Safety Transportation Authority (NHTSA) suggest that psychological and behavioral factors such as impulsivity, peer pressure and thrill seeking behavior may lead to the association with speeding, reckless driving and alcohol and drug use while driving that is a frequent cause of accidents. NHTSA studies have also shown new drivers are easily distracted and that teens are more likely to engage in risky behavior when in a group. It is not just fatalities that are of concern; national studies show that one speeding ticket results in an increase in insurance costs of $900 over the course of a three year period. So, teens and their parents need to be concerned not only about their physical health but their financial health as well.
There is no shortage of advice for teens about driving but it can boil down to some very quick observations:
- Don’t drink or take drugs and drive; don’t get into a car with people who are drinking or taking drugs.
- Don’t drive distracted; that is no texting, talking on cell phones while driving or other in car activities.
- Buckle up. If you have heard some nonsense about ending up in a creek upside down and drowning because you couldn’t get out of the safety belt, forget about it. It almost never happens.
- Be careful when there’s a group in the car. Whether old or young, none of us is as distracted alone as we are in a group having fun – and
- Watch your speed.
There are certainly other tips that may be helpful, like exercising care when driving in the dark or extreme weather but by and large if you observe the big five above, you will have a better chance of becoming a senior driver someday.
If you are the parent of a teen and feel that you need some help monitoring your teen’s driving habits, you may want to enlist the help of some technological aids. There are a variety of smart phone apps designed to help reduce distractions while your teen is driving and keep their passengers safer on the road. While technology is advancing all the time, at Homer Smith Insurance we believe there really is no substitute for the teen learning good, safe driving habits along with close parental supervision.
In addition to the safety benefits of responsible driving, teens will get the best auto insurance rates if they: 1) Maintain good grades, typically at least a B average; 2) Keep a clean driving record, free of accidents and violations and; 3) Take an approved driver’s education course.
Folks out here on the Olympic Peninsula have been close to the land for a long time. A lot of this area’s history has been tied up with the timber industry as well as fishing. Sometimes we forget that there has also been a strong agricultural presence. The Dungeness Valley in Sequim, for example, grew potatoes wheat, oats, peas and apples for shipping to ports around Puget Sound. There was also a large crop of hops which supplied the Port Townsend breweries and the thirsty sailors who frequented them. The Egg and I, a book about rural Jefferson County in the 1930s highlighted a mixed agriculture economy that appears to be coming back.
The local food movement has really taken hold here. OlyCAP and other community organizations worked together to sponsor a conference on food security on the Olympic Peninsula back in 2007. That seemed to get a lot of people working together to help support area organic farmers and just introduce a bunch of people to each other. In the past few years area farmers markets have grown like never before with active markets in Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend. Nash Huber of Nash’s Organic Produce was in the running for a national award as an organic farmer a few years back. Many of the local farmers have demonstrated tremendous community spirit in contributing excess produce to local food banks and allowing community groups to glean remaining produce from their fields and orchards after the harvest. Community support runs both ways.
Both Clallam County and Jefferson County have a growing farm population and with expanding outlets that include the farmers markets, area restaurants and “farm share” Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, individual farmers have a chance to make a difference. A lot of the new farming is organic as well, responding to a renewed public interest in healthy food. In Clallam County, Nash’s Organic Produce has been a leader in organic food production for years and their farm stand offers items not only from their farm, but other items from local producers. Jefferson County has a number of organic producers with farmers like John Gunning at Collingswood Farms and the folks at Midori farms actually producing in or near the Port Townsend “urban” environment. The organic food movement is supportive of all kinds of growers. Sequim is famous for its lavender and there are many organic lavender producers there. Every summer in July many lavender farms are open to the public during the Sequim Lavender Festival — pictured above, Homer and Cynthia of Homer Smith Insurance visited Graysmarsh Farm this past July,
Growing organic food – or even organic lavender – starts with organic seed and the Organic Seed Alliance has been quietly going about its business of educating farmers about the benefits of organic seed and advocating for organic production since 2003. Their offices are in Port Townsend and their reach is literally worldwide.
Each of these farms and organizations is pretty small when considered alone, but taken together they put the Olympic Peninsula in the front ranks of the local food and organic movement. They make us all think a little bit more about the importance of supporting each other in our community.