All 16 year olds who walk through State Farm agent Mike Lewis' doors get an initial piece of advice.
"I say 'What I want you do do is kind of drive like a NASCAR driver.'," he said.
Lewis admits the recommendation gets some confused looks from teens and parents alike. But there's method to his madness.
"Those guys know what's around their cars on all sides at all times," Lewis said.
Knowing what's around them is a major problem for teenage drivers.
According to a study conducted by State Farm and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia that was released this month, critical driver error was to blame for 75% of teen wrecks. Researchers evaluated federal databases for 800 wrecks involving teenagers.
- 21% were due to lack of scanning for potential hazards around their vehicles
- 21% were going too fast for road conditions.
- 20% were distracted by something inside or outside of their vehicles.
"Kids aren't getting into a lot of wrecks because of aggressive driving, really its driving safely and the skills needed to do that," Lewis said.
The study's authors recommend strong graduated driver licensing laws and educational programs focused on common teen driver errors.
"It's nothing new, being aware of what's around you, not driving faster than the road conditions dictate," Lewis said.
In the "new driver" speech he gives to all 16 year olds, Lewis reminds teens of the responsibilities that come with the freedom of the open road.
"We're driving a deadly machine, and everybody else on the road is doing the same thing, so driving defensively is huge," he said.