A Look Back on Teen Driver Safety Week 2021

By Bryan Delaney, NTSB Safety Advocate

Last month, as part of Teen Driver Safety Week the NTSB held two virtual roundtables to discuss the state of teen driver safety and graduated driver license laws (GDLs). While the dialogue was robust and yielded many critical insights, these events reminded us that one week isn’t enough to highlight the dangers associated with teen driving; to keep teen drivers safe on the roads, our focus must persist long into the future.

As advocates for teen driver safety, peers, parents, guardians, and mentors must continue to set a positive example, instill good driving behaviors during this learning stage, and work toward effective programming and policy that promotes teen driving safety.

We wanted to share some of the key takeaways from experts who participated in our two roundtables. If we heed their words, teen drivers will be safer on our roadways today and into the future.

Tara Gill, Senior Director, Advocacy, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

“Crashes are a leading cause of death for teens. And it shouldn’t be acceptable that thousands of teens are killed each year in crashes involving a teen driver. Traffic safety laws, vehicle safety technology, along with requirements and standards and road safety upgrades—this is the package we should be looking at. We must urge all states to give their GDL program a second look and prioritize changes to improve the programs.”

Haley Reid, National Vice President of Membership, Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)

“Encourage students, and encourage parents, and encourage peers to take advantage of the opportunities provided for students who are part of FCCLA and other similar organizations.

Teens and parents should be part of the solution together.”

Shaina Finkel, National President, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) National

“Make yourself and your safety the first priority. You should always do what you know is right on the road and off the road.”

Kelly Browning, Executive Director, Impact Teen Drivers

“To parents, the number one influencer: be the driver you want your child to be.”

Rick Birt, President & CEO, SADD

“The power of peer-to-peer prevention is one thing I am going to walk away with today. We need to rely on them (teens leaders) to really be the mobilizer to reach all the other students in the hallways of our schools and streets in our communities. We need to invest in the peer-to-peer approach with adult allies to support them, cheer them on from the sidelines, and give them resources.”

Sandy Spavone, Executive Director, FCCLA

“We need to prioritize teen driver safety education and making it equitable and fair for all youth. We must invest in our next generation. Teen driver safety education needs to be a priority in the United States.”

Charlie Klauer, Research Scientist and Training Systems Lead, Division of Vehicle, Driver, and Safety Systems, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

“To teens and all drivers, keep your eyes on the road. Be patient and take things slow. There is no reason to go fast, no reason to look away and mess with other things. It is critical to pay attention and drive safe.”

William Van Tassel, Manager, Driver Training Programs, AAA National

“It’s all about vehicle choice. We need to make sure that our new drivers use the vehicle technology (collision avoidance technology) safely and effectively. It’s one thing to get it in their hands, but we have to take it another step as well. They have to be trained to use that. We know that most of these drivers are operating vehicles without a fully developed brain so there is a great temptation to consume vehicle technologies for a performance benefit rather than for a safety benefit, at least among younger drivers. To be able to counter that, they need to use them safely and effectively. In training drivers, that’s probably going to be perhaps our biggest issue over the next 20 years.

Pam Fischer, Senior Director of External Engagement, Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)

“We can’t diminish the important role of parents. Graduated driver license laws are really parent programs that are designed to give them the minimum standards to shoot for. We have to make sure parents understand that and leverage GDL for all its worth, because it is a proven tool.”

Kenny Bragg, Senior Highway Investigator, NTSB

“For parents, become as involved as you can in your child’s transition to motoring. Give them the education, have conversations, and give guidelines. Do everything you can to ensure your child’s success.”

Rebecca Weast, Research Scientist, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

“I want to plug vehicle choice. There are lots of points of contact for parents and teens as they are going through the process of teens becoming a licensed driver. Vehicles should be a slightly larger vehicle, slightly heavier vehicle with a lower horsepower and it will limit their ability to do things that are risky. If it’s possible to put them into a vehicle with advanced safety features, parents and teens need to know how these features work.”

All our roundtable participants discussed the importance of education—educating parents, states, policymakers, and lawmakers—about the importance of a relentless focus on teen driver safety. After all, education plus action equals positive change.

Watch video of the roundtables here:

NTSB Roundtable on the State of Teen Driver Safety

NTSB Roundtable on the State of Graduate Driver License Laws

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