Lt. Mike Camp with the Cartersville Police Department said the biggest safety concern the department has with teen drivers is distracted driving.
"Teen drivers are easily distracted whether it be with cell phones, music, talking with friends, and so forth. They have to learn to pay attention," Camp said. "We are obviously very much concerned with issues such as teens drinking and driving, using illegal drugs and driving, and texting and driving."
Overall, Camp said the most common reason a teen driver is stopped is due to traffic violations like speeding and disobeying traffic control devices such as stop signs and red lights.
He noted intersections like Grassdale at U.S. Highway 41, Church Street at Hwy. 41, Main Street at Hwy 41. and Ga. Hwy. 113 at Burnt Hickory, are prone to causing accidents.
However, both Camp and Lt. Keith Duncan, of Bartow County Emergency Medical Services, said there is room for accidents outside of high-traffic areas.
Duncan said, for example, teens may drive recklessly on rural roads if out with friends.
"[Teens] say 'we're just hanging out'," Duncan said. "The less traveled areas, sometimes teens get a little careless thinking they're 10-foot tall and bulletproof," Duncan said.
Camp said there also can be issues when new drivers and distracted pedestrians are in the same area.
"Parking lots are problem areas for the possibility of teen drivers hitting pedestrians, especially because both drivers and pedestrians are on cell phones and not paying attention," Camp said.
Both Camp and Duncan said a change with the current generation of teen drivers is they have been paying attention to years of being told the importance of seat belts.
"Seat belt violations are not as common among teens as they are among adults as far as my experience shows," Camp said. "Teens today have grown up with child safety seats and seat belts more so than the adults of today did, so teens are not as resistant to wearing the seat belts."
Duncan said increased seatbelt use has had positive results.
"The seat belts with the shoulder harness with the lap belt, in conjunction with an airbag, we're seeing less and less severe injuries," Duncan said. "We're seeing a lot of minor traffic accidents where [teens] are just not paying attention and rear-end someone, or are talking to buddies in the car and not paying attention."
Duncan said there are elements to a wreck that remain same whether an accident occurs on the interstate or on a rural highway.
"When a vehicle crashes, there are three collisions," Duncan said. "The vehicle impacts the object, the body impacts the vehicle and the organs of the body impact the inside of the body, and [teens] just don't understand the severity of speed and the vehicles we put them in."
In an attempt to cut down on distracted driving, the state passed the Caleb Sorohan Act on July 1, 2010. The act bans drivers age 18 and younger from using electronic communication devices while behind the wheel and bans texting for all drivers.
However, Camp said it still is difficult to determine whether someone is in violation of the act except in certain situations.
"We have not seen a noticeable decrease in [texting and driving]. This is a very tough area for us to enforce," Camp said. "It is hard to know whether anyone, teens or adults, are texting or merely dialing a phone number on their phones."
Camp said it's often too late when learning a driver was distracted by texting.
"You usually find out if someone was texting on their phone when there is an accident and one of the drivers admits to having been texting," Camp said.
He broke down a scenario of stopping a suspected distracted driver:
*An officer is behind a vehicle and sees the driver driving somewhat erratically.
*The officer starts paying close attention to the actions of the driver and notices that the driver keeps lowering his or her head as though looking at something on his or her lap.
*The driver only has one hand on the steering wheel.
* The driver looks down for long periods of time.
*The driver crosses the center line a couple of times.
* The officer initiates a traffic stop.
Camp and Duncan said law enforcement and emergency services share a common goal with parents in terms of keeping teens safe on the road.
"One of an officer's worst nightmares is to respond to a fatality accident scene where children or teenagers are involved. Many officers have families with children and teenagers," Camp said. "We do not want to write the report about any child or young adult being a fatality statistic.
"Sometimes, because of that, officers seem to come across as 'lecturing' teenage drivers when we stop them and some parents get a bit upset about this and accuse us of being rude, even when we just issue their son or daughter a verbal or written warning which is often the case. We would like parents to know that we are truly concerned about the safety of the young adult drivers just as much as the parents are."
Duncan offered his advice as a parent.
"Stay involved in your teens' lives, not just in their driving, but stay involved in their lives," Duncan said. "Know their friends, know who they're hanging out with, be involved with them at school, I think that's where you build a bond with your teenager."