Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, 2,270 teens in the United States ages 16–19 were killed and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That means that six teens ages 16–19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries.
Those stark statistics provide the backdrop for the observance of National Teen Safe Driver week, which runs through Saturday,in Connecticut and nationwide. The week-long observance, through October 22, brings that message to communities across the state by reminding them safety must come first. Connecticut adopted in 2008 more stringent teen driving laws to raise awareness and reduce crashes, injuries and deaths. The state has seen an 82-percent reduction in fatalities for 16 and 17 year-old drivers from a high of 11 in 2002 and to an average of two per year since the tougher laws began.
“As long as motor vehicle crashes remain one of the leading causes of death for American teenagers, everyone needs to do their part to ensure our youngest, and most inexperienced drivers have the knowledge to make responsible decisions when they get behind a wheel,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy. State Attorney General George Jepsen said, “National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great time to encourage conversations with new and soon-to-be drivers about the importance of safe driving habits. Parents, teachers, advocates and even peers all play a role in helping to make sure that teens make safe choices when operating motor vehicles.”
Members of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Teen Advisory Board said the week is important for a variety of reasons, and encourages teens to play an active role in promoting safety behind the wheel. The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16-19-year-olds than among any other age group, CDC data indicates. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
“One second represents when we make a driving decision, be it a good or bad one,” said Armani Nieves, a senior at Hall High School in West Hartford and member of the DMV Teen Advisory Board. “It only takes one second to be a good or bad driver.”
Maggie Silbo, a junior at Mercy High School and a member of the teen advisory board, said teen drivers can lead by example in many ways. “To be safe drivers, teens should follow the rules of the road, such as not talking or texting on the phone, obeying the posted speed limits and following the passenger restriction laws,” Silbo said. Angela Zhu, a senior at Cheshire High School, said teenagers can play an active role as responsible passengers.“It’s all about awareness,” said Zhu, also a member of the DMV Teen Advisory Board. “All it takes is one small sentence. If you really care about your friends, simply tell them to put down the phone.”
Compared with other age groups, teens have among the lowest rates of seat belt use. In 2015, only 61% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. Teens are also more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations, and more likely than adults to make critical decision errors that lead to serious crashes, according to the CDC.
The DMV Teen Advisory Board also came up with the theme for this year’s DMV-Travelers Teen Safe Driving Video contest: “One Split Second…” The board designed the theme to engage teens to produce a video on how a split-second decision related to driving can make a difference in the lives of these youngest drivers.
“I believe it is crucial to promote the message of safe driving for teens, especially as there are even more distractions on the road today,” said Kojo Appiah, a senior at Xavier High School in Middletown and a member of the DMV Teen Advisory Board. “This video contest is an exciting activity that teens can do with your peers while learning the life lessons and responsibilities of being a safe driver.”
DMV Commissioner Michael Bzdyra said this week is a great time for parents to review the state’s teen driving laws (http://ct.gov/teendriving/laws) and create a safe driving agreement (http://1.usa.gov/1MA7miP) with their teens. “This is an important week because it’s a reminder to teens, parents and communities who can all be positive influences for safe driving in a variety of ways,” Commissioner Bzdyra said. “This is a great time to discuss safe driving at home, in the classroom or anywhere else to promote good choices related to driving and help ensure teens follow the rules of the road.”