Keeping teens safe on the road

By Katherine Tellez

June 23, 2014 Updated Jun 24, 2014 at 9:55 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The first week of summer is officially under way -- a time many of us get outside and take vacations. But it's also a very dangerous time for teens on the roads.

The National Safety Council says some 260 teen drivers will die in car crashes during each of the summer months.

And while studies show that Illinois ranks third in the nation for having safe teen drivers -- a local driver's ed instructor says the statistics can always be improved.

She believes you have to make the numbers personal.

"That night when you go out in the car, you're going to have a date in the car with you, someone you're in love with, or your best buddy since grade school and that's who you're likely to die with. So before you take a dangerous action or decide to do something that's risky, think about 'you're going to die with that person or you're going to kill that person,'" said driving school instructor Kristina Hestrom.

Illinois requires both classroom and behind the wheel training, something not every state mandates.

And many people believe that double-training has helped put Illinois at the head of the class.

Ask any teenager the best part about getting their license and you'll probably hear something like this...

"Having freedom and getting to go places without your parents and stuff," said Taylor Jockisch, 15.

But with that freedom comes a big responsibility.

Kris Jockisch has 15-year-old twins in driver's ed this summer and a
17-year-old already behind the wheel.

She was surprised to hear that not all states require driver's education.

"I don't think I could go through and teach them the responsibility that they have with driving and with other people in the car...and just all the safety issues. We don't all remember all those, we do the best that we can," said Jockisch.

Both teachers and parents agree that that responsibility includes making teens understand that they aren't invisible and fully understanding the damage a car can do is irreversible.

It's something these teens are beginning to understand.

"You always want to look around you when you're driving and be safe because you never want to hurt someone that means a lot to you," said Taylor.

"Paying attention to other drivers and driving safely and defensively. Really concentrating on the road and the signs," said Wes Jockisch, 15.

Illinois requires drivers under 18 to have a minimum of nine months experience, with at least 50 hours of supervised driving time before getting a license.

Aside from distracted driving, driver's ed instructors said there are key things that make a good teen driver: Lots of practice in different situations, being aware of the risks around them and realizing that driving safely and defensively is a skill that takes time to develop.