Category Archives: Teen Driving

A New Year’s Resolution We All Can Make: Prioritize Safety

By Nicholas Worrell, Chief, NTSB Safety Advocacy Division

As 2021 ends, it’s time to reflect on the past 12 months and begin to set goals for the year ahead. After all, as Zig Ziglar once said, “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” So, let us all aim to improve the safety of our transportation system in 2022.

The NTSB recognizes the need for improvements in all modes of transportation–on the roads, rails, waterways, pipelines, and in the sky. Our 2021–2022 NTSB Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements (MWL), released in April this year, highlights the transportation safety improvements we believe are needed now to prevent accidents and crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives. We use the list to focus our advocacy efforts and to serve as an important call to action. We ask lawmakers, industry, advocacy, community organizations, and the traveling public to act and champion safety.

As a fellow safety advocate, I ask you to join me in a New Year’s resolution: I pledge to do my part to make transportation safer for all.

To help you take steps to accomplish this resolution, our MWL outlines actions you can take to make transportation safer:

  1. Require and Verify the Effectiveness of Safety Management Systems in all Revenue Passenger-Carrying Aviation Operations
  1. Install Crash-Resistant Recorders and Establish Flight Data Monitoring Programs
  1. Implement a Comprehensive Strategy to Eliminate Speeding-Related Crashes
  1. Protect Vulnerable Road Users through a Safe System Approach 
  1. Prevent Alcohol- and Other Drug-Impaired Driving
  1. Require Collision-Avoidance and Connected-Vehicle Technologies on all Vehicles
  1. Eliminate Distracted Driving
  1. Improve Passenger and Fishing Vessel Safety
  1. Improve Pipeline Leak Detection and Mitigation
  1. Improve Rail Worker Safety

Achieving these improvements is possible; otherwise, they wouldn’t be on our list. The NTSB MWL includes tangible changes and solutions that will, undoubtedly, save lives. But it’s only words on a list if no action is taken. Unlike Times Square on New Year’s Eve, we cannot drop the ball on improvements to transportation safety. The clock is ticking, and the countdown has begun—we can’t afford to waste any more time. Make the resolution to do your part to make transportation safer for all!

In closing, I’d like to thank the transportation safety stakeholders, industry, lawmakers, and advocates we have worked with in 2021 and we look forward to working together in 2022 and beyond.

Three Key Strategies to Prevent Teen Distracted-Driving Crashes

By Bryan Delaney, NTSB Safety Advocate

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens and, for today’s teens, distraction is a major factor in crash risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), dialing a phone number while operating a vehicle increases a teen’s risk of crash by 6 times, and texting while driving increases crash risk by 23 times.

The NTSB recognizes the importance of teen driver safety, and we’ve made numerous recommendations to prevent distracted driving and promote safe driving behaviors for these vulnerable road users. The following strategies can improve teen driver safety and reduce the risk of teen distracted-driving crashes.

Educate Teens on the Risk of Distracted Driving

Education is key to changing driving behaviors among teens. Parents should model safe driving behaviors, laying out expectations and enforcing consequences if rules are broken. Adults must remember that the driving habits they teach teens through formal education and informal instruction is only half the battle—they must also “walk the walk” by avoiding risky behaviors and teaching by example.

Teens must also set a positive example for their peers by buckling up; obeying the speed limit; avoiding distracted, drowsy, and impaired driving; and making sure their emergency information is up to date and accessible in case of a crash. Peer-to-peer education and accountability can foster a driving environment where distracted driving is unacceptable.

Ban Portable Electronic Devices While Driving

States have a role in preventing teen distracted driving. For a decade, the NTSB has recommended that states prohibit the nonemergency use of all portable electronic devices, except those designed to aid the driving task, while driving. We need a cultural shift to put human life at the center of our transportation system over perceived productivity or social engagement. Driving distracted must become as unacceptable as driving impaired by alcohol or other drugs—for both adult and teen drivers.

Establish a Comprehensive Graduated Driver License Law

All states have some form of a graduated driver license (GDL) program, but no state has a comprehensive program with all provisions to minimize driving risks for teens. As outlined below, the NTSB recommends that all states establish a comprehensive, three-phase GDL law for teen drivers to gain driving experience before obtaining a full license. The following GDL provisions can help states improve overall teen driving and reduce crashes resulting from inexperience.

  • Phase 1: Learner’s permit
    • 6-month minimum holding period (without an at-fault driver or traffic violation)
    • Supervised driver requirement with supervising driver age 21 or older
    • Seat belts used by all occupants in all seating positions
    • Driving with a measurable blood alcohol level prohibited
    • Cell phone use prohibited while driving
  • Phase 2: Intermediate (provisional) license
    • 6-month minimum holding period (without an at-fault crash or traffic violation)
    • Nighttime driving restriction
    • Teen passenger restriction (up to 1 passenger)
    • Seat belts used by all occupants in all seating positions
    • Driving with a measurable blood alcohol level prohibited
    • Cell phone use prohibited while driving
  • Phase 3: Full licensure
    • Seat belts used by all occupants in all seating positions
    • Driving with a measurable blood alcohol level by all drivers under age 21 prohibited

Distraction is impairing. Even cognitive distraction slows your reaction time, and visual and manual distraction might make it impossible to see or avoid a hazard. All drivers—but especially teens, among whom distraction is pervasive—should keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their phones in the glovebox.

No text, email, or notification is worth a life.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

By Chair Jennifer Homendy

November 21 is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. It is a day to honor the 1.3 million lives lost each year around the world in motor vehicle crashes.

Today, I urge everyone to take a moment to remember all those who have lost loved ones in crashes, as millions have done around the world since 1995. Here in the United States, traffic deaths are up 18 percent over the first half of 2020. We are on pace to lose 40,000 Americans this year alone.

My thoughts are with all who have lost loved ones, but especially those I’ve met who lost loved ones in crashes that the NTSB has investigated, and the survivor advocates I’ve gotten to know over the years.

We need to remember these numbers are people from our communities. They are lives lost: mothers, fathers, or children suddenly, permanently gone; brothers and sisters absent from holiday gatherings; friends missing from a baby shower. We record our losses in data tables, but we feel them at the dinner table, and in the graduations, weddings, and birthdays never celebrated.

At a November 10 virtual roundtable on the need for our nation to transition to a Safe System approach, I called for a moment of silence in advance of the World Day of Remembrance. I said then that, for the NTSB, the toughest part of our job is facing family members after a tragedy, explaining that their loved one’s death was 100 percent preventable and that we’ve issued recommendations which, if acted upon, would have prevented the crash and the loss of their loved one.

Then I said that we need a paradigm shift in how we address this ever-growing public health crisis.

For 26 years now, the world has memorialized the victims of motor vehicle crashes, and we have been right to remember them. No loss should be forgotten. But these are unnecessary losses. They must not be remembered only in words.

They deserve and demand action now.

They demand to be remembered with road treatments, traffic calming measures, engineering speed assessments, road safety laws, and other investments that will result in safe roads and safe speeds on those roads.

They demand to be remembered with the manufacture of safe vehicles that should come standard with better technology for avoiding collisions, including collisions with pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.

They must be remembered with vehicle sizes and shapes that are less likely to result in the pedestrian and bicyclist deaths that we have seen so often.

They demand to be remembered with ignition interlocks for all impaired drivers, in the development of in-vehicle alcohol detection technology, and in fair and just traffic law enforcement.

They demand to be memorialized with increased investments in alternative modes of transportation, like public transit, which will reduce crashes on our roads, in newly changed laws to improve road safety, and in the enforcement of existing laws.

But most of all, these victims should be remembered as what they were: flesh and blood. Human. Vulnerable.

Put that image at the center of all the other aspects of our roads, and you’ll see the road as we must in order to finally make it safe. Don’t think of numbers, think of people. Put them at the center of every decision about our road system. That’s the paradigm shift that we need—to make our many layers of traffic hazards into layers of traffic protection, so that when crashes happen, nobody pays for it with their life.

This Day of Remembrance, let’s remember that the candle we light to remember victims is more than just a memorial; it’s a light showing the way to a safer tomorrow.

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

EPISODE 44: TEEN DRIVER SAFETY

October 17-23, 2021 was designated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as Teen Driver Safety Week, a time dedicated to raising awareness of preventive measures that can be taken to eliminate teen injuries and fatalities on American roadways.

In this episode of Behind-the-Scene @ NTSB, State and Local Liaison Steve Blackistone, Chief of the Safety Advocacy Division Nicholas Worrell, Senior Highway Crash Investigator Kenny Bragg, and Safety Advocate Bryan Delaney discuss NTSB’s long history of advocating for preventive measures that would mitigate teen traffic crashes including eliminating distractions, fatigue, and impairment, reducing speeds, occupant protection, and implementation of robust Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws. They also discuss the recent NTSB Teen Driver Safety Roundtable series and the importance of recognizing that traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for teens and encouraging teens and parents to speak up about safe driving behaviors among teens.

To learn more about our Teen Driver Safety Week Roundtable Series and to access recordings of the events visit the event page.

The previously released podcast episodes featuring Kenny Bragg are available on our website.

The previously released podcast episodes featuring Nicholas Worrell are available on our website.

Get the latest episode on Apple Podcasts, on Google PlayStitcher, or your favorite podcast platform.

And find more ways to listen here: https://www.blubrry.com/behind_the_scene_ntsb/