How Safe Is Your Teen Driver?

Teen driver taking selfies in a car

According to a recent report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association entitled “Mission Not Accomplished: Teen Safe Driving, the Next Chapter, teen-involved car crash deaths increased by 10% in 2015.

Further, drivers aged 18-20 are 1/6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than the younger teen drivers, aged 15-17.  

As a result of these new statistics, the GHSA has asked that all State Highway Safety Offices take a close look at teen-driving patterns, especially those of older teens, to determine if we can note some helpful patterns as to why this is happening.  There have been many distracted driving programs going over the last decade and those programs have proven to have made a positive difference in the driving statistics. 

But a serious problem remains with older teen drivers.

A suggestion has been made to focus more on the Graduated Drivers Licensing program, which has already been able to reduce teenager involved crash risks by as high as 30 percent.  There are three phases in the program.  First, there is a supervised learning period.  After the driver passes a qualifying test, he/she receives a learner’s permit.  With the permit, he/she can drive only with a supervising adult.  Second, the driver earns an intermediate license which allows him/her to drive without supervision but he/she is subject to restrictions (curfew, no cell phone, limited passengers).  Third, the driver gets full privileges

The GDL program is being used in all 50 states but once a teen turns 18, he/she ages out of the program; in other words, if the teen hasn’t reached the final phase by then, he/she gets the license anyway.  The criticism is that obviously, a teenager turning 18 years old does not render him/her mature enough to simply skip the steps that were put in place for a reason.  There is a strong push for a change to this system.

What’s clear is that whether we make changes to the GDL system or otherwise, we have to do better with encouraging and helping our older teens become safer drivers.