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Hundreds of area teens are expected to attend a safe driving event designed to stress the dangers of distracted driving Saturday at Tysons Corner Center.

The “Celebrate My Drive” event is being sponsored by insurance company State Farm, and will be attended by students from many area high schools including some within Fairfax County.

Various activities will take place throughout the day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Teens can participate in trivia, make personalized key chains, and other activities including trying out driving simulators. It is going to be a very festive event,” said event coordinator Amy Preddy. “At the same time, we hope to educate new drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, automobile accidents are the number one killer of American teens, and their first year on the road as a new driver is the most dangerous.

“State Farm and others believe a supportive and positive approach to teen driver safety in addition to education, awareness, legislation and enforcement is key to keeping teens engaged and safe on the road,” said Preddy.

National survey results recently released by a Harris Interactive poll show that peer pressure actually can be a positive influence when it comes to texting while driving.

According to the Harris poll, while a passenger in a car, nearly four in five teens (78 percent) said they spoke up and pointed out a fellow teen driver’s distracted behavior when they saw it.

Once raising the issue, 84 percent said the teen driver listened to his or her peers and stopped texting while driving.

However, the recent poll also shows that teen attitudes concerning texting while driving may be “do as I say — not as I do.”

Of the nearly one in five teens (16 percent) who did not point out the distracted behavior, almost half (48 percent) stated they felt the driver could handle the distraction so they did not speak up.

The survey also indicated that although the majority of teens tell others not to text and drive, about a third still engage in the behavior themselves.

In the survey, 34 percent indicated they had engaged in texting while driving.

“Many teens don’t realize that they are actually not invincible,” said senior Melissas Stegner, 17, who heads the Students against Destructive Decisions group at Centreville High School, one of the schools participating in Saturday’s event.

“I hope this event empowers teens and helps them to drive safer,” she said.

In the recent Harris poll, 54 percent of teens polled said they have, or will, get their driver’s license within one month of being eligible to drive while 43 percent said they would wait slightly longer, getting their license within two or more months of being eligible.

Of those that said they would wait more than one month, teen girls were more than twice as likely as teen boys to state their reason as not believing their driving skills were proficient enough to get full licensure.

“Many teens feel that they have a divine right to get out on the road and drive as soon as they are eligible,” said State Farm insurance agent Ginger Gray of Fairfax. “They need to realize it is not a right, but a privilege, and one that can be revoked if not adhered to properly. The majority of teens don’t think they will get in a car crash during their first year driving, but I have handled claims that indicate otherwise.”

According to the Harris poll, approximately three out of four teens do not expect to get into a crash during their first year of driving, despite research stating the first year is by far the most dangerous.

More than half of these teens strongly disagree they will get into a car crash — a mindset that concerns many teen driver safety advocates because new drivers often lack driving skills as novice drivers.

“State Farm has conducted research with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that revealed a lack of awareness regarding the high crash risk for novice drivers,” said Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm. “Most teen drivers agree inexperience makes them less safe as drivers. It’s equally important to understand that getting a driver’s license, while an important milestone, does not make one ‘experienced’. There is still much to learn on the road to being a safe driver. Research by the Center for Disease Control and others has shown that the first year on the road is the most dangerous for teens — so extra care is warranted”.

Saturday’s event will take place at Tysons Corner Center, 1961 Chain Bridge Road in McLean, inside the mall near Macy’s and the Disney Store.

The event is free and open to all teens ages 15-18.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com