Teen driver inexperience, coupled with immaturity, often results in risk-taking behaviors such as speeding, alcohol use and not wearing a seat belt—all of which contribute to an increased death rate. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)
To reduce the death rate, all states have enacted Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws that phase in driving privileges. Traffic safety experts agree a that well-designed GDL program includes:
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- Lasting at least 6 months
- With at least 30-50 hours of parent-certified supervised practice
- Intermediate stage that lasts until at least age 18 and includes:
- Nighttime driving restriction starting at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.
- No (or no more than one) teen passengers
- A ban on all cell phone use and electronic communication devices
Research has shown significant reductions in deaths were associated with GDL laws that included age requirements, a waiting period of at least three months before the intermediate stage, a restriction on nighttime driving, 30 or more hours of supervised driving and a restriction on carrying passengers or the number and age of passengers carried.
In addition to laws, parents also play a key role in helping teens become good drivers. Parents should not rely solely on driver education classes to teach good driving habits and should restrict night driving, restrict the numbers of passengers riding with their teen, supervise practice driving, alway require use of seat belts and choose vehicles for safety, not image. Parents can also set a good example by practicing safe driving themselves.
Ford Driving Skills for Life
To supplement driver education, GHSA and the Ford Motor Company developed Ford Driving Skills for Life (FDSFL), an innovative program that teaches newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs.
Global Youth Traffic Safety Month™Global Youth Traffic Safety Month™, held in May, brings youth together to focus on the leading cause of death for them and their peers: traffic related crashes. Global Youth Traffic Safety Month™ empowers youth to develop and lead traffic safety education projects and support law enforcement and effect legislation to protect teen drivers. The National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) organizes the campaign.
National Teen Driver Safety Week
Congress has designated the third week in October National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW). Its mission is to bring teens, community leaders, educators, and parents together to take action and increase awareness to help prevent teen crashes, the leading cause of death for American teens.
Many State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) plan activities specific to NTDSW. Others have year-long programs focusing on teen belt use, graduated licensing and underage drinking. GHSA, primarily through its joint effort with the Ford Driving Skills for Life program, uses the week as a vehicle for promoting safe teen driving.
Excerpted from GHSA's Highway Safety Policies & Priorities [115 KB, 27 pgs.]
N. Driver Licensing and Education
N.3 Graduated Driver Licensing for Novice Drivers
GHSA supports graduated driver licensing for novice drivers, particularly teenaged drivers. Recognizing that driving is a complex task and that skills increase with experience, GHSA encourages all states and jurisdictions to enact a 3-staged graduated driver’s license legislation and implement a graduated driver’s license program that includes such components as: a specific minimum age for a learner’s permit, a provisional permit that is granted several months after the learner’s permit and before a full license; mandatory on-the-road driving that supplements driver education/training during the learner phase; adult supervision of learners; nighttime driving restrictions; mandatory safety belt use; restricted number of passengers; distinctive provisional driver’s license; zero tolerance for alcohol; and license suspension for any impaired driving conviction or implied consent refusal. GHSA encourages the federal government to conduct research on the appropriate age for a learner’s permit, an intermediate license and full licensure so that there is better evidence for basing driver age decisions at the state level than currently available.
O. Driver Safety Issues
O.3 Young Adult Drivers
GHSA recognizes that the 21-34 year old age group is over-represented in traffic crashes and is one of the highest risk-taking group of drivers. GHSA supports all efforts to identify causes and implement appropriate countermeasures, including enforcement and education, to reach this special target population and to reduce its involvement in traffic crashes.