The California Highway Patrol (CHP) recognizes National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 16-22, which provides an excellent opportunity for families to have lifesaving conversations with their teen drivers.
Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for teenagers, ahead of all other types of injury, disease, or violence. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nationwide in 2014, 2,670 drivers age 15 to 19 were involved in fatal crashes, resulting in 3,004 deaths. In 2014 in California, 262 teens were behind the wheel at the time of fatal collisions. Sixty-five percent of those young drivers were at fault.
“Even as teens become more independent, their families still have a strong influence,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “Young people whose parents or guardians set firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer collisions.”
Inexperience is the leading cause of teen collisions. The safest way for young drivers to gain experience is for a parent or guardian to ride with them frequently and monitor their progress. By helping their teenager gain experience, parents and guardians should also highlight the five most deadly behaviors for new drivers:
Alcohol consumption: Driving or riding with anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have deadly consequences.
Driving without seat belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for anyone to stay safe and survive in a collision, but too many teens and their passengers do not buckle up.
Distracted driving: Eyes must be on the road and hands on the wheel all of the time.
Speeding: Almost one-third of drivers under age 20 involved in fatal collisions in 2014 were speeding.
Carrying extra passengers: Research shows the risk of a fatal collision goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in the car.
As part of its commitment to educating the motoring public, the CHP has developed several programs for teen drivers and their families:
Start Smart is a driver safety education class that targets new and future licensed drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 and their parents/guardians. The CHP has released a mobile application (app) for Start Smart, designed to assist young people through the process of obtaining their California driver license. The app includes a step-by-step guide covering everything from the Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Handbook and the final steps for obtaining a provisional license, to ultimately achieving an unrestricted California driver license.
Every 15 Minutes focuses on high school juniors and seniors, challenging them to think about drinking, driving, personal safety, the responsibility of making mature decisions, and the impact their decisions have on family, friends, and many others.
The CHP also works with Impact Teen Drivers, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through evidence-based educational programs that support good decision-making strategies behind the wheel.
“Although we focus on teens because they are uniquely vulnerable to car crashes because of their driving inexperience, the overarching mission is to change the culture of driving to one that is distraction-free. We partner with teen influencers – law enforcement, educators, and parents, to empower everyone in the community to commit to safe driving choices,” said Dr. Kelly Browning, Executive Director of Impact Teen Drivers.
“National Teen Driver Safety Week is about bringing awareness to the well-being of newly licensed teen drivers who are hitting America’s roadways,” said Rhonda Craft, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety. “By encouraging cautious and responsible driving habits among teens, we are helping to create safer roadways for everyone.”
The CHP is aware of the importance of role models in a youth’s development. Education of new drivers and their families is regarded as a critical function by the CHP to help keep everyone safe on California’s roadways.