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Program helps parents know what teen drivers are up to

Madison County has been spared much of the heartache of the motor vehicle-related deaths of several young people experienced by neighboring counties of late. According to local law enforcement, they're working to keep it that way.

In January, the Madison County Sheriff's Office implemented "STOPPED," a program designed by Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh to raise parents' awareness of whether their young drivers are being safe on the roads. The acronym STOPPED stands for "sheriffs telling our parents and promoting educated drivers."

"If a car with a STOPPED decal is pulled over, the patrol forwards data to my office, and I send a letter to the parents," said Traffic Safety Coordinator Rob Young at the Sept. 21 meeting of the Madison County Traffic Safety Board.

Young is working with schools to distribute information about the program. He said a couple of schools have talked about possibly making it mandatory for students who wish to drive their cars to school.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 20 years of age. More than 3,000 drivers between the ages of 16 and 21 die each year in the United States. Young said in Madison County, young drivers represented almost one-third of all drivers involved in fatal and personal injury automobile accidents in 2004.

Parents of young drivers under 21 years old are eligible to sign up for the program.

Young said signups have been disappointing during the program's inception nine months ago, and he is working to attract new registrants. He said he thinks they are worried police will inform their insurance company or keep records on their children.

"This is completely confidential," Young said.

Families with more than one car can get additional decals for each of their vehicles. If a participating vehicle is stopped for any reason, parents will receive information regarding the time and location of stop, the driver's name, number of passengers, reason for the stop and whether any traffic tickets were issued.

The next meeting of the Madison County Traffic Safety Board will be held qt The next meeting of the Madison County Traffic Safety Board will be held at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 16. For more information, call 366-2318.

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