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National Teen Driver Safety Week (Day 1) – The need for improved driver education for novice drivers

In 2007 the US Congress established National Teen Driver Safety Week to take place during the third week of October. This year we will work to bring you information and resources that you can use to help reduce the risk to yourself and the younger novice drivers in your family or your social groups.

Today, we’ll review the summary or facts presented by the CDC concerning the risks to young drivers, and a call for improved driver education standards in the US. As is usually the case, our children benefit greatly from the educated and responsible involvement and active participation from their parents.

From the CDC:

Motor vehicle-related injuries are the biggest health threat to teenagers in the United States, accounting for two of five deaths among teens ages 16 to 19 years. The crash risk is highest for drivers 16 years of age due to their immaturity and limited driving experience.

Most traditional driver education provides classroom training about the rules of the road and a few hours of behind-the-wheel training. Research suggests that this approach is not effective in reducing the crash risk among newly-licensed teen drivers. Driver education programs may be improved by teaching psychomotor, perceptual, and cognitive skills that are critical for safe driving, and by addressing inexperience, risky behaviors, and other age-related factors that increase the crash risk among young drivers. However, more research into these factors is needed before they can be addressed effectively.

Inexperience increases the crash risk for new drivers of all ages. However, younger novice drivers crash at higher rates than older novice drivers. These higher crash rates may be due in part to developmental factors such as peer influence, poor perception of risk, and high emotionality. Research about such developmental characteristics could increase our understanding about why young drivers have higher crash rates and could help to improve driver education programs and licensing policies.

A growing body of research indicates that close parental management of teen drivers can lead to less risky driving behavior, fewer traffic tickets, and fewer crashes. However, many parents tend to be less involved than they could be. A recent study indicates that parents can be motivated to increase restrictions on their newly-licensed teens, at least during the critical first few months of licensure. A model intervention, the Checkpoint Program, led to increased parental limits on teenage driving at licensure and three months after licensure.

Teen Driver Resources for today:

  • Allstate Insurance Company — offers a website called Allstate Teen Driver that helps parents understand the need to get involved with their children’s driving, and gives advice on how parents can help their teen drivers understand the importance of driver safety.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — offers a collection of fact sheets, research, and activities that will help you understand the scope of real risks to young novice drivers, and links to other resources you can use to talk with your teen drivers about their safety.
  • Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association — offers a collection of national teen driver statistics, with links to Colorado and Utah specific break downs of similar statistics. 

Please feel free to post links to other teen driver safety resources you have found to be helpful in the comments section of this post.

Driver Distraction: New Presidential Text-Messaging-While-Driving Ban

President Obama’s new ban on text messaging behind the wheel of government vehicles and texting in personal vehicles if using government-issued phones or on official business is an important warning to motorists to the dangers of distracted driving.

Federal employees will not be allowed to text while driving, according to an executive order signed Wednesday night by President Obama.

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray H. LaHood on Thursday announced the measures aimed at curbing what he called a deadly epidemic of distracted driving.

The order covers federal employees when they are using government-provided cars or cellphones and when they are using their own phones and cars to conduct government business.

Separately, the federal government plans to ban text messaging by bus drivers and truckers who travel across state lines, and may also preclude them from using cellphones while driving, except in emergencies.

Tragically, distracted driving claims thousands of lives each year. Texting is becoming more and more popular with both teens and adults, and many of those teens who grew up texting are now getting behind the wheel as inexperienced – and distracted – drivers.  

Last year, 5,870 people died and 515,000 were injured nationally in crashes linked to distracted driving – often due to the increasing number of drivers who juggle cell phones, BlackBerries, and other gadgets.

Drivers who talk on cell phones are four times as likely to crash, regardless of whether they’re using a hands-free device, studies show. In fact, a yakking driver is just as much a road hazard as one who is legally drunk. Texting poses even greater risks, since motorists have to take their eyes off the road.

It’s not just cell phones and text messages. The availability and variety of in-car gadgets continues to grow, and with it the potential for distracting drivers long enough to reduce reaction time and rob drivers of that critical second or two that could mean the difference between accident avoidance or tragedy.

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