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Suffolk to inform parents of kids' traffic stops

Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco joined Legis. Brian Beedenbender and Mothers Against Drunk Driving president Denna Cohen Thursday to launch a program to notify parents when law enforcement officers stop their children on the roads.

The program, Sheriffs Telling Our Parents and Promoting Educated Drivers, allows families to register their cars with the sheriff's department. The department will supply red windshield decals to alert officers to contact the parents of young drivers whenever they encounter law enforcement officers.

"We hope it will be a deterrent because if a parent signs up for this program, they really are being very proactive," DeMarco said at a news conference in Yaphank. "This gives the parent a tool to monitor them, and you would hope that the child knows that if they're stopped that the parent will find out."

If an officer stops a marked car whose driver is younger than 21, the officer will report details of the stop, including the number of people in the vehicle, the reason for the stop and whether any tickets were issued. The officer sends a notification through a phone call, letter or e-mail to parents.

DeMarco said he would ask other law enforcement agencies on Long Island and in other states to honor the decal program.

He added that he is trying to make a dent in statistics that show that in 2007, 6 percent of licensed Suffolk drivers were between the ages of 16 and 20 and 14 percent of them were involved in accidents with injuries or fatalities.

Each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,000 drivers between 16 and 21 die in motor vehicle crashes.

"This will inform parents about risky behaviors," Cohen said. "We need to let our parents know what their kids are doing on the roads."

Beedenbender said the program has potential to save lives.

"If you're not going to drive appropriately and you're not going to drive responsibly, you're not going to drive at all," he said. "Anything we can do to prevent more of our young people from passing away on the roads because they're making poor decisions is certainly a great step forward."

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