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Doctors should talk to teens about driving

BALTIMORE, March 27 (UPI) -- A U.S. pediatrician advises colleagues to include an "are you driving yet?" talk in a teen's routine physical.

Dr. Letitia Dzirasa of Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore suggests not only discussing "It can't happen to me" syndrome and common pediatric conditions that increase accident risk, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, but also talking about state laws restricting cell phone use and driving at night.

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"Pediatricians talk to their teen patients about eating disorders, alcohol, marijuana use," Dzirasa says in a statement, "but the one conversation that is not happening often enough is about the No. 1 killer of teenagers: car accidents."

Vehicle accidents kill more 15- to 20-year-olds than any disease, so teenage driving should be considered a risky behavior, in need of as much attention as unprotected sex or underage drinking, Dzirasa says.

Dzirasa says a teen's physician should ask specific questions about the use of medications, alcohol and seat-belts.

Parents may want to consider restricting their teenager's driving, such as ensuring the teen is accompanied by an adult, using a written contract that establishes the rules of engagement and penalties for failure to follow them, Dzirasa recommends.

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