Teenagers and fast cars are a Hollywood legacy that dates back to James Dean. The “Rebel Without A Cause” and his Porsche 550 Spyder were the ultimate symbols of teenage rebellion during the 50s. Despite all the Hollywood hype surrounding a teen’s need for speed, the problem with teenage reckless driving has serious consequences that reverberate beyond the drivers themselves.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s report Fatality Facts: Teenagers 2003, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teenage drivers are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.
As if those statistics weren’t bad enough, the Automobile Club of America (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety published a study that shows the majority of people killed in teenage driver crashes are people other than the teens themselves. The Foundation study analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1995 through 2004.
The research data indicates that young drivers represent a little more than one-third of all fatalities caused by crashes in which they were involved. However, almost two-thirds of those killed in crashes are other vehicle occupants and pedestrians. Between 1995-2004, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers took the lives of 567 people in Minnesota, of which 212 or 37.4 percent were the teen drivers themselves. The remaining 355 or 62.6 percent included 171 passengers in the cars driven by 15- to 17-year-old drivers, 155 occupants of other vehicles, and 29 non-motorists. The AAA of Minnesota is using this data in their lobbying efforts to beef up state driving laws.
As a result of their findings, the AAA is suggesting a two-pronged approach to solving the problem. The first is a graduated licensing law (GDL). Graduated licensing requires that a new driver be given driving privileges in three stages: a learner’s permit, a probationary license and finally full driving privileges.
The AAA made it their goal in 1997 to pass GDL laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This goal was finally achieved when Wyoming and Montana enacted laws in 2005. The legislation requires teens to obtain more supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience as well as phased-in driving privileges. However, not every state’s GDL laws are as comprehensive as they should be.
The second part of their approach involves educating parents. Parents are encouraged to prevent their teenagers from riding with other teen drivers, or transporting other teens during the first year of driving. To help parents overcome any awkwardness about enforcing these rules, especially if other parents may not be following the same track, the AAA has designed a new parent discussion guide. It encourages parents to work as a team to ensure their teens gain driving experience in the safest driving environment possible during that first year. For more information, log on to http://www.aaapublicaffairs.com/Main/Default.asp?CategoryID=14.