Fostering Teen Driver Safety Through Policy, Advocacy and Technology

By Bryan Delaney, NTSB Safety Advocate

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death for American teens. As new teen drivers are tossed the keys to their first car, it’s important for peers, parents, guardians, and other influential individuals to encourage safe driving habits that will last a lifetime. These habits can be a matter of life and death for a novice driver.  The NTSB recognizes the importance of teen driver safety and has issued numerous recommendations to promote safe driving behaviors for these vulnerable road users.

Parent with a teen driver

Policy Changes and Advocacy

Over the years, our advocacy efforts to promote youth traffic safety have been unwavering, with a particular focus on our recommendations to states to implement comprehensive graduated driver license (GDL) laws that foster a safe learning and driving experience for novice road users. The NTSB has advocated for strengthening these laws, including promoting nighttime driving restrictions, passenger restrictions, hours-of-driving-experience requirements, seat belt use requirements, and distraction prevention (cell phone and passenger restrictions) to prevent teen-driver-related crashes. The NTSB recommends a three-stage GDL law that proceeds through the following:

  • A supervised learning period in which an adult driver at least 21 years old can supervise the teen driver and instill good driving habits. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a teen driver’s risk of death decreases 62 percent per mile driven when a passenger aged 35 or older is in the vehicle.
  • An intermediate stage with driving limitations to avoid high-risk driving scenarios (driving at night and driving with passengers). Teen drivers within the intermediate stage, unless accompanied by a supervising adult driver who is at least 21 years old, must refrain from carrying more than one passenger under the age of 20 until they receive full license privileges. According to AAA, a teen driver’s risk of death doubles when carrying two passengers younger than 21 and quadruples when carrying three or more passengers.
  • Full license privileges.

If your state does not have a comprehensive GDL law, parents, guardians, and peers can still encourage these typical GDL requirements.

Technology Advances

Whether you’re a teen driver or a seasoned driver, mistakes happen; however, when it comes to driving, our mistakes shouldn’t have deadly consequences. The NTSB has long recommended and advocated for vehicle safety technologies that can assist drivers. We also believe that vehicle safety technology should be available as standard equipment in all vehicles, for all drivers.  Equipping teens with a safe vehicle that includes advanced driver assistance technology can reduce the risks of—and even prevent—crashes. In fact, a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that equipping your teen driver with a vehicle with crash-avoidance and teen driver safety technologies can prevent or mitigate up to three-quarters of fatal crashes involving teens.

Teens are one of our most vulnerable driving populations, and it’s important that we instill safe driving habits and behaviors in them. Parents, guardians, and peers can have conversations with new drivers about avoiding distracted and impaired driving, buckling up as soon as they get into the vehicle, and follow the rules established within a GDL law, creating a positive example for novice drivers and fostering a safe environment for growth and learning.

As Teen Driver Safety Awareness Week approaches next month, we encourage our readers to stay alert for upcoming events and campaigns focused on teen drivers and the strategies for keeping young people safe behind the wheel. But you don’t have to wait until then to support teen driver safety; you can be an outspoken advocate to the teen drivers in your life today.

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