Teen Driving Safety
Car crashes kill more young people than any other cause, accounting for nearly half of all teen deaths in America each year. In 2015, over 2,300 teens lost their lives in car crashes, which is six teens a day too many. Specifically in Georgia, there were 173 fatalities due to motor vehicle collisions involving children ages 19 and below (WISQARS). Additionally, on a per-mile driven basis, teens ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely be in a fatal crash than older drivers, and the majority of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving. For every American teen killed in a car crash, about 100 more are injured. It is critical that we act to decrease the prevalence of teen deaths resulting from car crashes.
What does Georgia law say about Teen Driver Safety?
In 2007, the Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA) established a graduated driver’s license program in Georgia. This means that teen drivers must go through three steps to obtain a Full Class C Driver License. At age 15, teens can obtain an Instructional Permit by passing a written exam but can only drive when accompanied by a passenger that is at least 21 years old. An intermediate Class D Driver License is granted to drivers between ages 16 and 18 who have had an Instructional Permit for 12 months and passed a driving test. Additionally, teens must complete Joshua’s Law or wait until they are 17 to obtain a Class D Driver License. This license has time restrictions, which prevent teens from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. Passenger restrictions can also be found through the Georgia Department of Driver Services at www.dds.georgia.gov/teen-drivers. A Full Class C License is given at age 18 as long as the driver does not have any major traffic convictions during the previous 12 months.
There are also laws in place to keep teens safe and alert while driving. According to O.C.G.A. 40-6-241.2 (Georgia Code), it is prohibited for anyone to write, send, or read any text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle (with some exceptions for emergency personnel, drivers responding to emergencies, and drivers who are fully parked). Additionally, license holders who are under 18 cannot use a cell phone or other wireless communication device at all (handheld or hands-free) while driving. It is important for people of all ages to act according to these laws in order to keep children and teens safe while on the road. (Ref: www.drivinglaws.org/georgia)
Teens in the Driver Seat
Safe Kids Georgia began a partnership with Teens in the Driver Seat (TDS) and Georgia Department of Transportation in 2016 to educate middle and high school administrators and stakeholders around Georgia about an award-winning, peer-to-peer program available to students at no cost. TDS is based out of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which is the largest transportation institute in the nation. Teens in the Driver Seat received 8 major, national awards in last 10 years; including the 2015 Teen Safety Leadership Award (NSC) and 2016 Transportation Research Board Competition Winner.
Top Teen Driving Risks
Driver inexperience is the #1 cause for teen crashes, closely followed by night/drowsy driving, speeding/racing, distractions, low seat belt use and impaired driving.
In Georgia to date, there are over 60 middle and high schools participating in TDS activities. The program is 100% free and non-curriculum based. Georgia schools compete each year for the TDS Cup through activities and qualifying outreach the students submit. Cash prizes are awarded to the top three schools, and for the 2016-17 school year they were as follows:
Targeting Top Crash/Fatality/Injury Counties in Georgia
With data provided by Georgia Department of Transportation, and the help of Teens in the Driver Seat, 10 top risk counties have been identified in Georgia for the 2017-2018 school year. Safe Kids Georgia is actively facilitating local workshops, partner outreach and webinars around the state through our Safe Kids network of Coalition Coordinators.
Best Practices in Teen Driver Safety
Tips for Parents and Guardians
- Start talking to kids about passenger safety early on. Check out the Countdown2drive program (http://countdown2drive.org/), which helps you put together a passenger agreement and guidelines for pre-teens and teens that are specially tailored for your family.
- Be the driver you want your teen to be.
- When you are driving with your teen in the car, talk through what you are doing and why, such as checking the mirrors, steps to changing lanes, looking around before accelerating at a green light, etc.
- Make sure everyone in your family follows the law prohibiting texting and driving.
- Demand full seat belt compliance by every driver and every passenger.
- Know that each passenger, including siblings, in a teen’s car increases the likelihood of a crash.
- Teach your kids to ride with experienced drivers and never get in the car with someone who has been drinking or doing drugs. Parents must decide what “experienced” means.
- Don’t push a teen who, for whatever reason, is not ready to drive safely.
- Be prepared to support your teen as they gain experience and learn to make mature decisions behind the wheel.
- Allow your teen as much driving practice as possible, with you present.
Tips for Teen Drivers
- Commit to several hours of driving practice and study every week.
- Be patient about easing gradually into more complex driving situations.
- Focus on safe driving by obeying the speed limit, avoiding distractions, and always wearing a seat belt.
- Act according to the law, and avoid using your cell phone while driving.
- Follow the restrictions set by the Class D License (avoid driving between midnight and 5 a.m., limit the number of passengers, etc.).
- Avoid driving while under the influence, and do not ride with anyone who is under the influence.
- Follow your family’s parent-teen driving agreement.
Combined with a lack of driving experience, the most common causes of teen driving crashes are driving at night, speeding and street racing, distractions in the car, low seat belt use, and alcohol and drug use. Adopting the best practices as described can help to minimize these practices in the hopes of reducing the number of teen driver deaths.