Ten Years Brings 43 Percent Fewer Teen Driving Fatalities
National Teen Driver Safety Week – Then and Now
Car crashes are the number one killer of American teens. However, in the past decade, tremendous safety gains have been made.
This week marks the tenth anniversary of National Teen Driver Safety Week. Things look much different than they did ten years ago. Though it is tragic to lose even one young person in a car crash, the numbers have decreased nearly 43 percent in the past decade. In 2015, 4,308 teens were involved in fatal crashes compared to 7,500 in 2005*.
Where it all began
The 2006 National Young Driver Survey was a research collaboration between State Farm® and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. More than 5000 teens were surveyed to help us better understand teens’ driving attitudes and behaviors. Young drivers shared what they believe affects safe driving. In their own words, they provided insights on parental involvement, distractions, and risky driving behaviors.
The survey revealed a need to shine a light on ways to keep young drivers safe behind the wheel. In 2007, State Farm, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and members of Congress teamed up to designate the third week of October as National Teen Driver Safety Week.
“Over the past ten years we have seen a great combined effort to keep teens safe behind the wheel,” said Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm. “All across the country students, parents, schools, the medical community, insurers, safety organizations, auto manufacturers, corporations, policymakers and others have worked to improve safety through education, awareness, technology and strong Graduated Driver Licensing laws.”
The National Young Driver Survey highlighted the importance of the provisions that make up Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. Strong GDL laws consist of: minimum age of 16 for a learner’s permit, a six-month holding period, supervised driving requirement, nighttime driving restriction, passenger restriction, cell phone restriction, and a minimum age of 18 for an unrestricted license.
Studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) attribute reductions in crash deaths to strong GDL programs. Nearly all states have substantially strengthened their GDL laws over the past twenty years.
All states now have at least some elements of graduated driver licensing. IIHS has created this calculator that estimates the effect of teen driver licensing changes, by state.
Parents making an impact
Over the past ten years, there has grown to be more emphasis on parental involvement in the learning to driver process. GDL laws, schools and driver education programs have placed more emphasis on the role of parents in the teen driving experience.
When teens begin driver’s education, many states and localities now require parents to attend informational meetings. This helps parents understand what their child will be learning, what learning is required outside of school, and familiarizes them with the state GDL laws.
“Car crashes are the greatest danger your teens face,” said Dr. Flaura Winston of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The good news? These crashes are preventable. As parents of new drivers, you play a vital role in keeping your teens safe on the road. In fact, our research has found that you can cut your teens’ crash risk in half by staying involved, setting rules, and being supportive.”
Award-winning Illinois driver education instructor Judy Weber-Jones believes teen-led safety programs have had a great impact on teens’ driving behaviors. “When teens lead outreach programs, during National Teen Driver Safety Week and year-round, they are helping create a culture of safe driving in their communities.”
Gerald Apple agrees. He is a board member of the Washington Traffic Safety Education Association and advisor for the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) clubs at Shelton High School and Junior High in Washington State. “We have seen students make a great impact on awareness of safety issues,” he said. “Through their distracted driving and other safety presentations and pledge drives within their schools and even elementary schools, kids are really paying attention.”
Even though teen fatalities have gone down significantly compared to ten years ago, recent crash statistics show they are beginning to rise, just like the numbers for drivers of all ages.
“We really must turn this trend back around,” said Chris Mullen. “Studies show we can achieve that through a collaborative approach that includes teen-led programs, effective and affordable driver education, strong GDL laws, parental involvement, and advances in safety technology.”
*Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System
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