WASHINGTON, D.C. – Millions of teens are learning to drive at an especially difficult time – amid a pandemic-fueled boom in risky and dangerous driving on U.S. roads. To commemorate National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 17-23, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and its partners continue to focus on keeping the youngest and most inexperienced drivers safe by reinforcing the important role of parents in the learning to drive process.
“Teen drivers are more likely than any other age group to be involved in a fatal crash due to inexperience and maturity,” said GHSA Senior Director of External Engagement Pam Shadel Fischer, a nationally recognized teen safe driving expert and co-author of Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving. “Parents have spent the last 19 months focused on their children’s health and safety during the pandemic. That attention to safety can easily extend to driving – and the best way to do that is for parents and teens to work together to ensure young drivers build the skills necessary to keep themselves and everyone else on the road safe.”
The past year and a half have been challenging for many families due to pandemic-induced social, economic and transportation upheavals. GHSA offers three key recommendations for parents of teen drivers that can positively impact their child’s safety:
Know and enforce your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law, which phases in driving privileges as teens gain more experience. Research confirms the effectiveness of GDL laws in reducing fatalities involving teen drivers. Additional information about state GDL and novice driver laws can be found on the GHSA website.
Schedule regular driving practice with your teen, even after they’re licensed to drive without supervision. Teens whose parents actively monitor their driving are less likely to be involved in a crash and to engage in risky behaviors such as speeding, driving impaired or distracted, and not buckling up.
Collaborate with your teen to create and enforce a parent-teen driving agreement (PTDA) that clearly states the rules and the consequences for violating them. Posting the PTDA in a location where everyone will see it, such as on the refrigerator or adjacent to the car keys, will help to reinforce its importance.
To help parents and teens understand the value of working together, GHSA and Ford Motor Company Fund provide free, hands-on training through the award-winning Driving Skills for Life program. After a 15-month pause due to COVID-19, the in-person program resumed in August with stops in Anaheim, Sacramento and San Diego, Calif.; followed by Atlanta and Houston. Events are also scheduled for Nashville, Dallas and Phoenix through the remainder of this year. The Driving Skills for Life program is conducted outdoors and adheres to social distancing and other public health guidelines to ensure the safety of all participants.
At these hands-on sessions, new drivers are taught critical safe driving skills – hazard recognition, vehicle handing and speed and space management – and participate in activities that illustrate the dangers of distracted and impaired driving as well as sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter riders. The program also emphasizes the important role parents play in modeling safe driving behaviors when they are behind the wheel with their teen in the vehicle.
In addition to the return of in-person safe driving events, Ford Motor Company Fund and GHSA have awarded grants ranging from $18,000 to $25,000 to six State Highway Safety Offices to create and implement programs to help combat teen speeding, a leading cause of crashes and fatalities. Teens and Speeding: Breaking the Deadly Cycle, a report released by GHSA and Ford Motor Company Fund earlier this year, highlights the significant role speeding plays in teen driver fatalities and offers practical tools and guidance to help parents address this lethal driving habit.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.