Car crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers, according to statistics compiled by AAA.

Nearly 38,000 injuries and fatalities occurred in Ohio teen-driver crashes during the past five years, ODOT crash statisitcs show.

In Delaware County, three drivers ages 15-20 were killed in vehicle accidents in 2018, with another 13 suffering severe injuries, according to a report from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

In an effort to ensure local teenagers are safe behind the wheel, Olentangy Liberty High School and SAFE Delaware County invited AAA to perform vehicle safety checks and work with the Ohio Department of Transportation to talk with teens about safe driving practices.

Among those helping at the Oct. 22 event was Stacy Schlotterbeck, whose son, Gavin Schlotterbeck, was a 17-year-old Liberty student when he died in a car crash in 2017. Fellow Liberty student Hunter McClelland also was killed in the crash.

"We don't know exactly what caused (that) accident, but I just want to make sure we're doing everything we can to make sure our teenagers are safe," Schlotterbeck said. "I've just made that my mission."

The safety checks were conducted as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week.

Representatives of AAA and law enforcement also met with students at the school and offered impaired-driving simulations during the week.

"One of the first steps to safe driving is driving a safe vehicle," Lt. Eric Caudill of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Delaware post said of the safety checks.

"Teens might be driving older, hand-me-down cars, and they might not know how to do routine maintenance," AAA spokeswoman Kimberly Schwind said.

AAA traffic-safety program manager Kellie O'Riordan said that during the vehicle safety checks, automotive technicians identify potential problems with students' vehicle belts, hoses, tires, lights, fluid levels and batteries. Technicians then discuss any detected problem with each student and provide an inspection sheet to take home to parents.

Students also are encouraged to visit stations to talk one on one with safety advocates about safe driving practices.

Last year, more than 87% of the 1,367 cars AAA checked at Ohio high schools had at least one fault, Schwind said.

The results, O'Riordan said, are mailed to parents.

"There is a health impact to parent involvement in teen driving safety," Schwind said.

Caudill said maintaining a properly working vehicle is just one way inexperience impacts teen driver safety. Uncertainty in dealing with potentially hazardous road conditions or traffic situations and distracted driving also play a part, he said.

All of these topics are part of an initiative of the Delaware General Health District called SAFE Delaware County.

Health specialist Jackie Bain said the program is holding events such as the AAA vehicle check at high schools throughout the county.

For additional information on the program, go to facebook.com/safedelaware.

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