The California Highway Patrol’s Start Smart program is a driver safety education class that targets new and future licensed teenage drivers ages 15 to 17, their parents and guardians.

The next Start Smart class is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8 in the Ashton Conference Room in the medical building at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, 5333 Hollister Ave. in Santa Barbara. Teen drivers must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Parking is available all along the building, and the conference room is directly inside the main entrance.

CHP officers will discuss traffic collision avoidance techniques, collision causational factors, driver/parent responsibilities, seat belt usage and other topics.

Testimonies are provided by officers who have investigated fatal collisions involving teens, along with the latest Red Asphalt video that chronicles the aftermath of several teenage driver collisions. The CHP offers the Start Smart program to help newly and future licensed teen drivers become more aware of the responsibilities that accompany the privilege of being a licensed California driver.

California teen drivers are found at fault in 66 percent of all fatal collisions that they are involved in, although they represent only 4 percent of the state’s licensed drivers. California has the second-highest fatality rate involving drivers ages 15 to 20, and motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for Americans in this age bracket.

“This tragic loss of young lives is a concern to us, and we hope this program can reduce the death toll,” CHP Capt. Marty Maples said.

Teenagers average twice as any accidents as adult drivers while driving only half as many miles, making the teen accident rate per mile four times that of adults. If you are under 18 years of age, your risk of a fatal accident is about 2.5 times that of the average driver and your risk of an injury accident is three times higher than the average driver.

— James Richards is a public information officer for the California Highway Patrol.