Federal initiative focuses on preventing teen driver car crashes

When teenagers first get their license, it is a symbolic rite of passage that, for over half a century, has been associated with freedom, independence and youthful exuberance. While nearly all teens eagerly look forward to the day they can get behind the wheel, other drivers in the Chicago area and around the country are slightly more apprehensive.

Teen drivers have a reputation for accident-prone driving, and that reputation is borne out by car crash statistics. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers ages 15 to 20 constituted 10 percent of all drivers involved in deadly car accidents in 2010. In the same year, teen drivers were responsible for 13 percent of all fatal crashes caused by driver distractions.

To raise consciousness about the dangers of teen drivers and to improve teens’ driving habits, the U.S. Department of Transportation declared this week to be National Teen Driver Safety Week. Officials are urging parents to instill good driving habits in their children and to monitor their progress. One of those habits is eliminating in-car distractions that can turn a driver’s attention from the road.

In addition, NHTSA recommends that parents limit the number of other teens their son or daughter can have in the car at one time. Studies have shown that when teenage drivers have even one other teen in the car with them, their tendency to take risks on the road more than doubles. States have responded to this peculiar teenage disposition by enacting graduated license laws that restrict the number of passengers a teenage driver can carry.

Getting behind the wheel on the open road is indeed liberating, but it comes with significant duties and responsibilities. Every driver must abide by the legally prescribed standard of care. Failure to do so can lead to car crashes, which can expose drivers to civil liability.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Traffic safety officials offer guidelines for safe teen driving,” Jerry Hirsch, Oct. 15, 2012