Monday is the start of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which puts attention on teens as drivers.
A study put out earlier this week by AAA, GHSA and NHTSA, authored by my friend Pam Fischer, former Governor's Highway Safety Rep for New Jersey, shows that teens are 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than all other drivers. The total number of fatalities caused by teen drivers has dropped in the past ten years from 8,241 to 4,689 last year, but the 2015 figure represents a ten percent jump from the previous year.
The study -- and common sense -- attributes the numbers to factors that include speeding (1/3 of all teen fatal crashes), distraction from talking on a cellphone or to other passengers, and poor scanning of the road, which is mainly due to lack of experience. Other factors involve bad decisions, like choosing to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs, or choosing to text while driving.
On behalf of my client, The National Road Safety Foundation, I work year-round, not only during this designated teen driver safety week, to call attention to this problem and help engage teens to understand and communicate safe driving messages to their peers, their families and their communities. We do it through program materials they can use in their schools and in teens groups like SADD. We also do it through teen contests we sponsor like Drive2Life, which we just launched for the 7th year with Scholastic, and regional contests we do with the big auto shows in Chicago, Los Angeles and soon for the first time in Atlanta. And we're organizing the first DRV SAFE 4 PA teen/parent event in Philadelphia this week.
This week it's about teens, but really, we ALL need to think and pay attention when we get behind the wheel. As much as many parents believe their teens don't listen to us, the reality is they do... and they also pattern their behavior after what they see us do. So when we blow through a stop sign, speed or tailgate, or text as we drive, we must realize our kids are watching and learning from us that such bad driving behavior is ok.
We need to take responsibility -- all of us -- during National Teen Driver Safety Week and every week. Or it could be one of our friends or family who becomes part of next year's growing traffic crash statistics.