January is Teen Driving Awareness Month. If you are or have a teen driver and want to keep them safe, here are some facts to know:
- According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, in 2011, an average of 7 teens age 16-19 died each day from injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes.
- Drivers in this age group are nearly 3 times as likely as those over age 20 to be in a fatal crash.
- Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of young people ages 15-24, in Maine and across the nation.
- Teen passengers increase the risk of a serious crash, and the risk goes up with each additional passenger.
- Parental involvement in the learning process can greatly reduce the possibility of fatal crashes among teen drivers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says,
“Novice drivers rarely crash while they are being supervised by adults, but have the highest crash rates of all age groups during the first six months of unsupervised driving when they become fully licensed.” Therefore, to address all of these facts, each state has enacted a graduated driver licensing system (GDL.) A GDL allows for more hands-on instruction and guidance for young drivers.
In Maine, the GDL system has three stages:
Learner Stage: Minimum age 15 years; duration 6 months; 70 hours of adult-supervised driving time, 10 of which must occur after dark.
Intermediate Stage: Minimum age 16 years; no driving from midnight to 5:00 a.m.; no passengers besides family for the first 9 months
Full Privileges: Minimum age 16 ½ years
Maine law also prohibits cell phone use of any kind (calls or texts) for all drivers under age 18, and texting for all drivers.
If you’re a parent, there is no substitute for your involvement in your teen’s driving experience. So, to help keep the lines of communication open, we suggest entering into a young driver contract with your child. We have provided an example of one to use and adapt to your needs.
For more resources and information, visit the NHTSA’s website, and remember the “5 to Drive” rules: No cell phones, no extra passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, and always buckle up!