The bad news: Young, inexperienced teen drivers are involved in more serious crashes than other drivers. Many teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash at night, when using a cell phone or when carrying passengers.
The good news: Parents who insist their teen drivers follow the special conditions that come with a new license reduce the risk for their child. New tools are available that parents can use to make sure teens follow the law and drive safely.
Car crashes are a leading cause of death among teens in Washington. Between 2009 and 2013, 179 teens ages 15-19 died in car crashes. Of these teen deaths, 102 were drivers and the rest were passengers. The death rate for passengers and drivers in cars is ten times greater for teens (ages 15-19) than younger children (5.1 deaths per 100,000 people compared to 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively.)
Many traffic-related deaths of teens under 18 are linked to violations of the Intermediate Driver’s Licensing (IDL) law. The IDL law has special provisions to keep teens safe, including restrictions on nighttime driving, limits on passengers and “zero tolerance” policies which forbid all cell phone and alcohol use. These provisions have been shown to save the lives of teens. Public health and public safety experts urge parents and teens to adhere to these provisions every time they get in a car, and as closely as they followed the child passenger safety laws by buckling up every time.
King County Board of Health and King County Child Death Review member, Dr. Ben Danielson of Seattle Children’s Hospital noted, “It’s absolutely wonderful that parents of young children and infants are vigilant about car safety.
Unfortunately, as time goes on, teens and their parents become more relaxed about car safety, sometimes violating the Intermediate Driver’s Licensing law. The results can be devastating.”
“Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for U.S. teens and 16-19-year-olds are at highest risk,” said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer at Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Intermediate licensing of teens is an important and effective way to significantly reduce the risk of fatal crashes and preventable teen deaths.”
“Some parents may not understand the risks for new drivers, or may be unclear what their role is as their child becomes old enough to drive or to ride with other young drivers,” explains Pat Kohler, director of the Department of Licensing. “We want parents to know we’ve developed a parent guide to help them through this process.”
In May, the Department of Licensing partnered with the Safe Roads Alliance and State Farm Insurance to launch a new program that provides parents and guardians with a simple, easy-to-follow plan designed to help teens develop safe driving habits. The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program guide is packed with information and lessons on driving basics, parental pointers and licensing qualifications that are helpful to parents of new drivers.
The program is supplemented by the RoadReady mobile app, which can easily and accurately track the required supervised driving time of 50 hours.
The free program guide is available at driver licensing offices around the state. It is also available on the DOL website and at www.WaDriveToZero.com. The RoadReady mobile app is available at the App Store on iTunes and Google Play.
This effort is part of Washington’s Target Zero plan — to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.
For more information, visit www.targetzero.com.
Additional information on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can be found on the website, www.wtsc.wa.gov.