National Teen Driver Safety Week in October
Nearly 10 years ago, Congress established the third week in October as National Teen Driver Safety Week. The initiative began after a series of tragic car accidents that claimed the lives of several Pennsylvania high school students. The goal is to spark a discussion and raise awareness around issues of teenage driver and passenger safety to save lives.
In the United States, the leading cause of death for kids aged 15 to 19 is motor vehicle crashes. According to government statistics, there were more than 2,500 teen fatalities and an estimated 123,00 injuries in 2014 alone.
Research and data on teen motorists indicates impaired driving as one of the major factors in crashes. Impaired driving is not limited to being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. It also includes texting, talking on the phone, other distractions, fatigue and strong emotions while behind the wheel.
Studies show that passenger behavior can also be a distraction. Among 16 and 17 year olds, driver death rates rise with each additional passenger that is added to the vehicle.
What are the Facts About Teen Drivers?
Dosomething.org, an advocacy group for young people that focuses on social change, cites some telling facts:
- Drivers that are 16 have higher crash rates than any other age group, with one out of five having an accident in their first year of driving
- More than 50 percent of teenagers admit to talking on their phone when they’re driving. Research has shown this to slow a driver’s reaction down to that of a 70-year-old driver.
- Slightly less than half of teenagers – 44 percent, said they would absolutely say something if someone’s driving seemed dangerous
- Some 40 percent of fatal crashes involving teens happen between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Teen Driver Safety Campaigns
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched its “5 to Drive” campaign in 2013 to coincide with that year’s NTDSW.
Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, said at the campaign launch, “The 5 to Drive campaign” gives parents and teens a simple, straightforward checklist that can help them talk about good driving skills and most importantly, prevent a tragedy before it happens.”
“5 to Drive” includes:
1. No cell phone use or texting while driving
2. No extra passengers
3. No speeding
4. No alcohol
5. No driving and riding without a seatbelt
In conjunction with the Ad Council, the NHTSA also created a Teen Drunk Driving Campaign called “The Ultimate Party Foul” with a website for tips. They also produced the commercial below to stress the importance of staying sober when driving.
In many ways, driving has become a rite of passage. Young people dream about the opportunity to get behind the wheel, spread their wings and gain some independence.
Teenage drivers are also invaluable to busy families when they’re able to help with some of their own transportation needs.
For these reasons, it’s imperative that parents talk with their teenagers about road safety, what behaviors to avoid, and set limits on them until they’ve gained enough driving experience.
During National Teen Driver Safety Week, take the opportunity to talk with your teenager about these issues and get involved in community activities that teach safe driving skills.
Even a little bit of education can change teenage driving behavior for the better and make sure they get home safe and sound at the end of each day.
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