It’s no secret that teens face a number of dangers whenever they get behind the wheel. And Maryland teens, in particular, could benefit from renewed safe driving educational efforts and precautions, according to a February report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.
The number of 16- and 17-year-old driver fatalities in Maryland doubled in the first six months of 2012, according to the study. Maryland was noted as one of 25 states that saw an increase in teen driver fatalities.
It’s apparently part of a growing national trend: The GHSA report revealed a 19 percent jump in teen driver fatalities across the country during that same time period. Following eight years of declining teen driver deaths, this latest study represents the second year in a row in which there has been an increase.
Why the Trend?
What’s the cause of this two-year trend? The report attributes much of the increase to the fact that the benefit of state Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, which requires new drivers to gain experience behind the wheel before they obtain full driving privileges, may be leveling off now that most of the laws have been in place for some time. The author of the report also speculates that it may also be due to more teens being on the road as a result of the improving economy.
Tips for Curbing Teen Accidents
Whatever the cause, these findings point to a need for increased efforts to caution young drivers about their responsibilities behind the wheel. Here are specific tips on what you can do to help keep your teen drivers safe:
Start with a parent-teen driving agreement. Experts agree that parental involvement is key in helping to curb teens’ unsafe driving activities. Start by drafting a written agreement (download our parent-teen agreement here) that outlines your teen’s responsibilities behind the wheel, or as a passenger in a vehicle driven by another teen, along with a listing of detailed consequences when those behaviors aren’t met.
Lead by example, says the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). Always wear your seat belt; avoid texting, talking on a cellphone (pull over to the side of the road, if you must make a call) or other driving distractions; and always obey rules of the road. Parents should exhibit safe and courteous driving behaviors, because teens will imitate their behaviors, the Maryland MVA says.
Restrict passengers. One of the highest-risk situations for teen drivers is having other passengers in the car, according to the National Safety Council’s Drive it Home program, which recommends a house rule of no young passengers during a teen’s first six months of driving. A year is even better.
Warn teens against speeding. Drive home the dangers of speeding with your teen. The Maryland MVA says that the risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases incrementally with each mile per hour over the speed limit traveled.
Require seat belt use. It’s Maryland law that all drivers and front seat passengers wear seat belts. It’s a “primary” law, which means an officer can pull your teen over for the sole reason of not wearing a seat belt. But, more importantly, the Maryland MVA says seat belts are the best possible defense against vehicle crash fatalities.
Limit nighttime driving. Driving at night is high-risk for teen drivers, with most fatal crashes occurring between 9 p.m. and midnight, according to the Maryland MVA. Consider restricting teens from driving after 9 p.m. And know that, in some instances, it’s legal mandate, as Maryland law says provisional drivers under age 18 can’t drive between midnight and 5 a.m., unless it’s for a job, school, sports or volunteer work.
Safer teen driving begins with you, really. The more you invest in education and training and in setting clear parental expectations and restrictions, the better drivers your teens are likely to become.
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