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Sr. Public Relations Specialist, MD
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TOWSON, MD (October 12, 2017) – AAA Mid-Atlantic joins the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other traffic safety groups during National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 15-21) to encourage all parents to talk to their teen drivers about the rules of the road.
“Parents have a very strong influence on their teens, even as they grow older and become more independent, and thus can play an important role in helping ensure their teen drivers take smart steps to stay safe on the road,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Parents and caregivers are urged to talk about safe driving behaviors with their teens to address the most dangerous and deadly teen driving behaviors: alcohol, lack of seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and driving with passengers.”
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States - ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence. In 2015, 1,972 teen passenger-vehicle drivers (15 to 18 years old) were involved in fatal traffic crashes, resulting in 2,207 deaths nationwide, of which 1,730 were teens, according to NHTSA. An estimated 99,000 teen drivers of passenger vehicles were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.
Parents and caregivers are advised to discuss with their teen drivers the basic rules when behind the wheel to help reduce the risks for a crash:
No Drinking and Driving. All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol, but they are still at risk. Nationally in 2015, almost one out of five teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. Remind your teen that driving under the influence of any impairing substance, including illicit and prescription drugs, could have deadly consequences and is strictly enforced.
Buckle Up—Every Trip, Every Time. Everyone—Front Seat and Back. Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle and it is required in all 50 States. Yet too many teens are not buckling up, and neither are their passengers. In 2015, 531 passengers died in a car, truck, or SUV driven by a teen driver, and 58 percent of those passengers were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash. Even more troubling, in 84 percent of cases when the teen driver was unbuckled, the passengers were also unbuckled. Remind your teen that it’s important to buckle up on every trip, every time, no matter what – front seat and back.
Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel. All the Time. Distractions while driving are more than just risky—they can be deadly. In 2015, among teen passenger-vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes, 10 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Remind your teen about the dangers of texting and using a phone while driving. Distracted driving isn’t limited to cell phone use; other passengers, audio and climate controls in the vehicle, and eating or drinking while driving are all examples of dangerous distractions for teen drivers.
Follow the Posted Speed Limit. Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially for teens. In 2015, almost one-third (29 percent) of teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding at the time of the crash. Remind your teen to always drive within the speed limit.
Passengers. Even one passenger in a teen’s car can lead to disastrous consequences. According to data analyzed by NHTSA, teen drivers were 2.5 times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer, when compared to driving alone. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behaviors triples when driving with multiple passengers.
Avoid Driving Tired. Teens are busier than ever – studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends are among the long list of things they do to fill their time. However, with all of these activities, teens tend to compromise something very important: sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving. Make sure your teen gets a good night’s sleep; their grades, their friends, their passengers, and other drivers will thank them because they’ll be a safer driver.
Parents can help protect their teen drivers by talking with them about these risks. Surveys show that teens whose parents set firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer crashes. Parents can create a parent-teen driving agreement that includes strict ground rules related to distraction while driving and teen passenger limits, as well as other risky behaviors such as speeding. Any violations should result in consequences such as a suspension of driving privileges.
Explaining the rules and any other restrictions outlined in Maryland’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) law and the deadly consequences of unsafe driving practices can also help encourage teens to exhibit safe driving behaviors.
“We hope parents will start the conversation about safe driving during National Teen Driver Safety Week – but then continue the conversations—every day throughout the year—to help keep their teens safe behind the wheel, added Averella.”
This past legislative session, AAA Mid-Atlantic supported House Bill (HB) 330, which would have changed the curfew from 12 midnight to 10pm for teen drivers under 18 with provisional licenses to drive unsupervised.
“This bill, if passed, would have improved the safety for novice teen drivers in Maryland by reducing their exposure to high risk situations,” commented Averella. “In a recent AAA Mid-Atlantic transportation poll, 77 percent of Maryland motorists surveyed indicated that they would support legislation to prohibit young drivers, 18 years old or younger, from driving after 10:00 p.m.”
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which analyzed nighttime restrictions nationwide found that between 2009 – 2014, among 16 and 17 year old drivers, 57 percent of all nighttime crashes occurred before midnight. The study concluded that nighttime restrictions beginning at 12:00 a.m. or later provide minimal protection, and that states should consider updating their nighttime restriction coverage to include earlier nighttime hours.
TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens on the process of learning to drive. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.
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