Meridian, Miss. According to a newly released national ranking, Mississippi and Alabama are the top 10 states for the most dangerous teenage drivers. Mississippi ranks 5th on that list; Alabama ranks 8th.
Officials from CarInsurance.com analyzed federal data to create the ranking; it's based on the federal highway fatality rate and the number of distracted drivers on roadways.
In light of the findings, Mississippi troopers and other trained driving instructors have an important message for teen drivers. It's about the importance of taking all precautions for safety when behind the wheel.
In fact, driving safety officials say one of the biggest problems is something that we could, and actually should, leave in our pocket or purse until we come to a complete stop, and that's our cell phone.
Staff Sergeant Andy West with the Mississippi Highway Patrol says doing this is very important because the use of cell phones and other electronic devices is one of the leading causes for distracted driving.
"It's a matter of a split second when you think about taking your eyes off the road," says West. "You can travel a great distance in a few seconds when you're not looking."
"There's three feet on each side of the road from you; from the ditch and from oncoming traffic,"says Joey Ethridge, who teaches drivers' education at Clarkdale High School. "Three feet; that's not very far at all. So, just the simplest mistake of drifting three feet to your left, or three feet to your right, is the difference between living and dying."
To combat the problem, the Mississippi Highway Patrol has joined other states in a Stop The Knock initiative. It started almost six months ago in Mississippi. The program is designed to help train teenagers to become safer drivers.
The initiative's goal is to help troopers not have to knock on parents' doors to tell them that their child has died in a car crash.
As part of the Stop The Knock program, troopers go into schools and stress the importance of safe driving. But West says that is not enough to fix the problem.
"This education process begins at home," says West.
Findings by CarInsurance.com rank Montana as the most dangerous state for teen drivers. It's followed by North Dakota, which is second and Louisiana, which is third. South Dakota ranks fourth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. is motor vehicle accidents.