Roanoke, New River valleys have some of the highest teen driver crash rates in Virginia

On Monday, safety experts host a safe driving event for area high schoolers.

ROANOKE, Va. – Teenagers in the Roanoke or New River valleys are more likely to be in a car crash than anywhere else in Virginia. Monday in Roanoke, safety experts did their best to change that statistic.

Hundreds of area high school students hit the pavement to get a crash course in driver safety. From exploding airbags to some intense cone courses, driver's ed students got quite the show.

"It kind of helps young drivers learn the dangers of being out on the road and having distractions, so you can stay focused on the task of driving and nothing else," said Logan Baker, a William Byrd High School student. 

The event is designed to put teens on the spot and in the driver's seat, giving them hands-on training and lessons that they can't get in the classroom.

"We know that touching and feeling and experiencing enhances learning, so being out here and actually participating in these things and seeing airbags blow up and talking to police officers, it makes a big difference," said Martha Meade, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. And here at home, recent research, from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, shows that the Roanoke Valley and New River Valley have one of the highest teen crash rates in the state. According to experts, key risks facing teen drivers include driver distraction, speeding and nighttime driving.

"If we can change the attitudes of these teens before they get behind the wheel and establish unsafe habits, then we can impact that chain," said Meade.

This was the first teen driver safety event of its kind in the Roanoke Valley. The event was hosted by the Blue Ridge Transportation Safety Board, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Roanoke County Police Department and AAA Mid-Atlantic.