It’s a fact. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash, with the risk of motor vehicle crashes higher among 16-19-year-olds than among any other age group.
On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, at approximately 2:07 p.m., the Oregon State Police responded to a head-on two vehicle fatal crash on US Highway 101 near milepost 14. The preliminary investigation revealed a black Honda Civic, operated by a male age 18, was traveling northbound and lost control rotating sideways into the southbound lane. A southbound silver Toyota 4-Runner was unable to stop, hitting the passenger side of the Honda. The teen driver of the Honda suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene. Speed was considered as a contributing factor for the crash.
Statistics show that teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and underestimate dangerous situations, and alcohol is frequently a factor. Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in a crash in 2014, 36% were speeding at the time of the crash and 24% had been drinking, with 64% not wearing a seat belt. Distraction from cell phones and young passengers also increases the danger of a fatal crash.
Graduated Driving Licenses for Teens Featured in Most States
Nearly all states give graduated driving licenses to inexperienced young drivers while they safely gain experience before obtaining full driving privileges. Most programs are in three stages:
- Learner Stage: supervised driving followed by a driving test
- Intermediate Stage: limited supervised driving in high risk situations
- Full Privilege Stage: a standard driver’s license
38 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers. In all states, except Vermont, drivers in the intermediate stage are restricted from nighttime driving, and 46 states and D.C. restrict the number of passengers during the intermediate stage.
Once licensed in Oregon, for the first six months a teen driver can’t drive with a passenger under the age of 20 who isn’t an immediate family member, and for the second six months can’t drive with more than three passengers under the age of 20 who aren’t immediate family members. For the first year, teens may not drive between midnight and 5:00am, unless they are driving between home and work or a school event for which there is no other transportation, or if they are accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 25 years old. All of this, of course, is based on the honor system.
Technology Helps Parents Monitor Teen Drivers
Because state laws alone cannot fully protect inexperienced teen drivers, driver education must be combined with parent involvement to keep teens safe on the road, and new technology is making it easier for parents to participate. Rather than being a distraction, new technology is helping parents monitor and educate their teens about safe driving.
In 2016, Chevrolet introduced its Teen Driver feature. Currently offered on 10 Chevrolet vehicles, at no cost on its Cruze model, Teen Driver operates transparently, behind the scenes while driving. It automatically turns off the radio and connected devices if the seat belts aren’t fastened in the front seat. Speed is limited to 85 mph, delivering an audible speed warning that parents can set between 40 and 75 mph. The vehicle is programmed to automatically turn on vehicle safety features that can’t be shut off by the teen, such as Stability Control, Front/Rear Park Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert, and Forward Collision Alert. Lane Change Alerts can also be added as part of the $790 “driver confidence package.”
To activate Teen Driver, parents need to create a PIN number in the car’s MyLink settings. Teenagers have their own designated key fob. While driving, Teen Driver keeps a record of the following driving parameters to remind teens to practice safe driving:
- Distance driven
- Maximum speed reached
- Overspeed warning
- Stability control and traction control events
- Antilock brake events
- Forward collision alerts
- Forward collision avoidance braking events
- Tailgating alerts
- Wide-open throttle events
Teen Driver coaches teens as they are gaining experience and helps parents guide them. After the teen has used the car, Teen Driver displays a “report card” on the vehicle’s dash, listing distance, top speed and speed alerts, use of wide-open throttle, forward collision alerts and braking, and activation of such systems as stability control, that gives parents a sense of how their teens perform behind the wheel by listing which safety features were engaged.
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