Fatalities involving teen drivers jump in Interior

Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The number of fatal accidents involving teen drivers in the Interior is up sharply so far this year.

Five people have been killed and two critically injured in the Fairbanks North Star Borough in crashes involving teen drivers, according to the Alaska Highway Safety Office.

Last year one person in the borough was killed in an accident involving a teen driver.

North Pole Traffic Accident Prevention Officer Scott Deal said the reason teens are involved in more accidents than adults is their lack of experience.

''They flat don't have the experience. Unfortunately, the only way you get that is by driving,'' he said.

Rhonda Welborn of Fairbanks is trying to fill the experience gap for beginning drivers. Welborn has formed the North Star Trauma Prevention and Safety Center, Inc.

With the help of a part-time worker and volunteers, Welborn has drawn up the ''Teen Initiative 2000,'' which includes activities that give teens incentives to drive carefully and obey traffic laws, she said.

The center plans to offer programs that would make young drivers eligible to win prizes, including airline tickets and mountain bikes, as long as they maintain a clean driving record.

In addition, the center plans to offer a teen drivers' rally to teach defensive driving and to teach beginning drivers to change tires and set up flares and cones.

''The benefit will be after two years they'll automatically have improved driver's skills without even knowing it,'' Welborn said. ''They'll know what to do if a drunk driver is in front of them.''

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