Talking about back-to-school driving safety with your teen

South Dakota (KSFY) Over the past week, two South Dakota teens lost their lives in car accidents; both were not wearing a seat belt.

As thousands of other young drivers head back to school this week, law enforcement officers and educators are encouraging parents to talk to their kids about back-to-school driving safety.

“Parents need to be involved with their young person and their driving, they need to be proactive with them, making sure they're monitoring what they're doing and making sure they're doing the right things when it comes to driving to and from school,” Harrisburg High School’s Driver’s Education Coordinator Duane Fiala said.

One important factor in safely driving to school is what time your child is leaving.

“There's a lot of students here, we have approximately 1000 students and a strong percentage of those students are driving to school, so we have to be aware of the potential issues that could happen in the parking lot,” Fiala said.

“Leaving early enough to make sure they give themselves enough time to adjust for traffic flow issues,” Terry Anderson with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department said.

“I would suggest some of the young drivers, if they would delay their departure at the end of the day, let the other traffic get out of here first,” Fiala said.

Once they get behind the wheel, make sure their focus is on the road.

“We have to slow down, we have to put the phones away,” Fiala said.

“Inattentive driving, more so for teenagers, just to make sure they are paying attention to where they're driving and following the rules of the road,” Anderson said.

For teens, passengers can be another big distraction.

“The first year our young person was driving to school they couldn’t have anyone in the car with them to limit that distraction because it’s huge, between the phones and the distraction of their peers, they can't focus,” Fiala said.

That's why it’s extremely important for parents to set a good example.

“Look at what you've been teaching this child, this new driver over the past several months or years, think about what do I need to do to set myself and my new driver on the straight and narrow,” Lee Axdahl, the Director of South Dakota’s Office of Highway Safety said.

Axdaul says speed is the biggest factor in fatal teen crashes. That's why instilling good driving habits like always wearing a seatbelt and focusing on the road, can mean the difference between life and death.