Independence is great, but venturing beyond the cocoon of hanging with your parents and school-time supervision means looking after yourself.
Like many teens, Taylor Staub, 17, goes to the mall or movies and hangs out with friends on weekends. This keeps her out until 10:30 or 11 p.m., but the John S. Davidson Fine Arts School senior is always aware of her surroundings and tries to play it safe.
She worries about theft and personal harm, so she locks the car doors when she drives, keeps her purse tightly on her shoulder and keeps her car remote in hand should she need to set the alarm off to draw attention to herself.
Taylor knows that keeping herself out of harm's way is mostly about just using common sense. Here's some advice from teens and police:
Avoid places where risks are high.
Richmond County Sheriff's Department Lt. Scott Peebles recommends staying away from places that have a bad reputation for fights or alcohol or drugs. Even bystanders can become victims when a fight breaks out, and you put yourself at risk for sexual or physical assault when drugs or alcohol are brought into the equation.
Daniel Smith, 18, a freshman at the University of South Carolina Aiken, said he buckles up and is aware of those around him when he's on the road, because of the wrecks he's seen while serving as a volunteer firefighter with the Bath Fire Department.
"We see a lot of drunk drivers wrecking their vehicles, so drunk driving is a concern for me," he said.
Getting in the car with someone who engages in risky behavior, which includes driving too fast or erratically, is also unsafe, Lt. Peebles said.
Desmond McKinnon, 17, said cross-country meets, football games and church keep him out late sometimes.
"I never walk alone in the middle of the night," said the Harlem High School senior.
Taylor Mitchell, 15, a sophomore at Davidson, said she keeps safe by having her cell phone ready, and doesn't wait outside for her parents to pick her up.
So when should you head home? Lt. Peebles recommends by curfew: 11 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends.
When you're heading home, stay on the more-traveled, better-lighted roads. If making the choice between a shorter route and a longer, safer route, take the long way home. That way, if you need help, you'll have a better chance of someone seeing you.
Teens said staying safe is a matter of taking care of themselves and their health.
Desmond said his motivation is to live to go out another night.
Taylor Mitchell said personal safety is high on her list of priorities.
"My motivation is so I don't appear on the news as missing and (or) wasting my future on one night that I wasn't safe."
Amber Forbes, Michele Falin and Shamari Sylvan contributed to this report
Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top 10 safe places to go after dark
- Sonic Drive-In: This is a popular post-football game spot
- Friends' houses
- Waffle House
- The movies
- Sector 7G: This all-ages club often has music shows
- Pizza Joint
- Fifth Quarters: Post-football game alcohol- and drug-free events most commonly put on by religious organizations
- Inner Bean Cafe: Monday is open mike night.
Last year in Georgia, 56,119 15-19 year olds were involved in car crashes, resulting in 9,205 injuries and 77 deaths.
Source: Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety
By The Numbers
Car crashes account for a third of deaths each year for ages 10-24, and are the leading cause of death for that age bracket.
|Percentage of High school students who ...|
|Rarely or never wore a seat belt:||Rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol:||Have driven when drinking alcohol:|
Source: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention