National Teen Driving Safety Week: It Takes a Village to Help Educate Our New Teen Drivers

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths. Sadly, each week 68 families across the country have to deal with the unimaginable horror of burying their child. This equates to one teen driving death every two and a half hours. As a result of this epidemic, Congress in 2007 declared that the third week in October is to be recognized as National Teen Driver Safety Week.

CT DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey announced that her office has taken some special initiatives to help teens and parents understand the importance of safety behind the wheel. The Commissioner has created a special advisory committee, which first met last week, to address the key aspects of promoting safety, the state's tough laws and training requirements for 16 and 17-year-old drivers. "This is a time nationally and in Connecticut for reminding our youngest drivers and their parents about preparation, caution and diligence behind the wheel," said Commissioner Currey.

One of the greatest challenges faced by our new drivers is the lack of experience in operating a motor vehicle. This lack of experience and the dangers that are present is highlighted in a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety which found that teens are much more likely to get into an accident during the first month of driving.

The data studied concerned teen accidents in North Carolina from 2001 through 2008 and determined that teens were more than 50% likely to get involved in an accident during their first 30 days of unsupervised driving than they were after their first year on the road.  During those first 30 days, first time unsupervised drivers, were almost twice as likely to be involved in an accident than they were after two years behind the wheel.

So what were the main causes of almost 60% of these accidents?  The three most common mistakes made by these inexperienced drivers that resulted in accidents were: speeding, not paying attention and failing to yield to another vehicle. One of the most common driving situations that resulted in accidents was left hand turns. But as teen drivers gained the needed experience accidents involving left hand turns dropped dramatically.

What can parents do, especially during this nationally recognized teen education week, to help reduce teen driving accidents? Be a good role model for your child. Review driving basics with your teen driver including safe stopping distances and being very careful in left hand turn situations. Establish a vehicle safety check that should be performed before operating the vehicle. Go over emergency situations and what to do if one occurs and talk about the common causes of accidents that must be avoided: speeding; distracted driving; and violating motor vehicle laws.

You should also develop rules and backup plans that anticipate that your teen may make a mistake and get into a situation where they may need to call you. This plan should include the understanding that they should call you, without a fear that might otherwise dissuade them from, seeking your needed counsel.

As parents, we can take these much needed opportunities to further educate and train our teens in how to understand anticipate the ever present dangers that they confront on a daily basis in an effort to increase their chances of avoiding an accident. By discussing these thoughts with your children, friends and neighbors we can help each other and hopefully greatly reduce these largely avoidable accidents.