Parents have plenty to think about as the school year begins – back-to-school shopping, new routines, sports – however; the safety of their teen drivers should rank high on this list. Many parents are still unaware that car crashes are a leading cause of death and injuries for teens in New York State. Every day, approximately five teen drivers, ages 16- and 17-years-old, are treated in New York State hospitals for motor vehicle crash injuries. Newly licensed teens are at the highest risk of experiencing a car crash during the first year of driving with most crashes are caused by driving inexperience, speeding and being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle.
Car crashes while driving to and from school, especially after school, at night and with other teens in the car are common. Studies show that the hours after school lets out (3–6 p.m.) are a high risk time for teen drivers in New York State to be involved in an injury–related car crash. For fatal crashes, the largest proportion of crashes involving drivers ages 16-17 occurs at night from 9 p.m.–midnight. Teen passengers can be deadly distractions for teen drivers. In fact, having two or more peer passengers in the car, more than triples the risk of a fatal crash when a teen is behind the wheel.
Most motor vehicle crashes involving teens are preventable. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, which place restrictions on teen drivers to help them gain skills under lower-risk conditions, have contributed to a drop in deadly crashes involving teen drivers in the nation and New York State since 2004.
The GDL includes restrictions on nighttime driving and teen passengers.
Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to reduce the risk of a tragic car crash. Research studies have found that parental involvement is a key factor in protecting teen drivers. According to a study by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, parents who set rules and monitor their teens’ driving in a supportive way can lower their crash risk by half. Teens with involved parents are also:
- Twice as likely to wear seat belts;
- 70 percent less likely to drink and drive;
- Half as likely to speed; and
- 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving.
During National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 14-20, 2012), state and local agencies, organizations, schools and other contacts, are joining efforts with the New York Partnership for Teen Driving Safety to participate in the statewide campaign “Speak Early, Speak Often about Teen Driving Safety.” The goal of the campaign is to educate and empower parents to take recommended actions to keep their teens as safe as possible while driving.
During the week, (name of agency) will have educational materials available and/or conduct the following events (name of activities and locations) for parents of teen drivers.
The New York Partnership for Teen Driving Safety, New York State Department of Health, New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and (name of local agency) urges parents to take these four easy steps to keep their teen drivers as safe as possible.
- Talk about the importance of safe driving and buckling up before your teen can drive.
- Be a good driving role model. Drive safely, buckle up and follow the rules of the road. Teens learn their driving habits by watching the way you drive.
- Know and speak with your teen about the NYS GDL and other laws for drivers. Make sure your teen driver complies with the GDL night driving and passenger restrictions. Use the NYS GDL to set driving rules and limits for your teen driver. For GDL information, go to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles website.
- Use a parent/teen driving agreement to set and enforce driving rules during the first year of unsupervised driving. Gradually introduce new driving privileges as your teen proves to be a responsible driver. For samples of agreements, go to NYS Department of Health website, the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles website, or contact your car insurance company.
Parents and their teen drivers are also urged to complete the NYS Department of Motor Vehicle’s “Parent’s Guide to Teen Driving” and the “Resource Guide for Teen Drivers“. For more information about teen driving safety, go to the NYS Department of Health Injury Prevention webpage or the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee webpage.
Teen Driving Facts
- Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for sixteen and seventeen year-olds in New York State. Every day, approximately five drivers in this age group are treated in NYS hospitals due to car crashes.
- Driver inexperience is a leading cause of teen driver crashes. Safe driving is a skill acquired over time. New research indicates the part of the brain which manages the body’s motor skills, emotional maturity and aversion to taking risks, are not fully developed until age 25. Due to this fact, teens are particularly vulnerable to engaging in risky behaviors, such as impaired driving, distracted driving and speeding, and fail to recognize their dangers compared to older drivers.
- Crash risk is highest for teens during the first year of unsupervised driving.
- Comprehensive Graduated Driver Licensing laws are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers. These laws are systems designed to delay full licensure while allowing teens to obtain their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions.