(WFXR) — It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week! From October 15-21, the National Highway Association as well as other national traffic agencies work to spread the word about teens driving safely and making sure they know the rules of the road.

According to the National Road Safety Foundation, since the start of the year, over 19,000 people have died on America’s roadways. Of that number, more than 1,000 are estimated to be teen drivers.

“When we came out of covid the numbers that were going down have started to go back, and so we’re at a challaging place right now because we’re trying to reverse those numbers back again,” said Michelle Anderson, the Director of Operations for the National Road Safety Foundation.

Anderson says in Virginia, teen crashes were down by 5% in 2022. She added that this year, from January to June, over 400 people died on Virginia roads. Twenty of them were teens.

The Nation Road Safety Foundation cites accidents as the number one killer for teens in the United States. Data shows the greatest dangers while driving include alcohol consumption, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding and driving with passengers.

Anderson said parents should sit down and have an open talk with their kids about the dangers of the road. Even more importantly, she said parents should lead by example.

“If they see that when you get into the vehicle, you are buckling up, if they see that you’re powering down from your devices, if they see that you are making your adjustments to your heating and your mirrors before you even pull off, then nine times out of ten that is what they are going to do,” Anderson said.

The director says it’s very important for teens to feel safe enough to speak up if they’re in the car with their friends and they don’t feel safe. It’s something one driver instructor in the New River Valley second.

“If you got a friend that does silly stuff once they get in the car, then tell them that you’re not riding with them,” said Sarah Matney. “They want to be cool and they don’t want to be the downer person to not do anything and ride with everybody, but it’s about safety at that point and they have to make the right choices for it.”

Matney has been an instructor in Pulaski County since 2009. She started her own driving school, Matney Driving Academy in 2019. She and Anderson agree that speeding is a large factor in crashes — distractions as well.

“Distractions — when we discuss that, I talk real big about cell phones and not getting zoned in on something, you always want to watch the road and not get too into the conversation,” Matney said.

From her time as a driving instructor, Matney said she’s taught over 1300 people. The driving instructor says one thing for new drivers in the mountainous terrain of Southwest Virginia to remember is not to brake ride the car in front and to always check blind spots. Not only that, she said is hard to see over the hills or a series of bends in the road, so remember to slow down if you need to and stay fairly close to the white line.