October 22, 2015
TODAY: U.S. House Committee to Decide Fate of Controversial Provision in
Transportation Bill to Give Teens Keys to Drive Big Trucks Interstate
Deadly Policy Change Coincides With “National Teen Driver Safety Week”
When Public is Reminded that Crashes are #1 Killer of Teens
as U.S. Traffic Deaths are on the Rise in 2015
States Continue Delay in Closing Dangerous Loopholes in Teen Driving Laws
STATEMENT OF JACKIE GILLAN, PRESIDENT
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates)
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges Congress to acknowledge National Teen Driver Safety Week by putting the brakes on the interstate teen trucker provision in the DRIVE Act (H.R. 22) passed by the Senate on July 31 and legislation, H.R. 3763, being considered today by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Furthermore, Governors and state legislatures have ignored the growing death and injury toll of novice teen drivers and bills languish in state houses that can prevent crashes and save lives. During the 2015 legislative session, only a few states upgraded teen driving laws to protect the most dangerous age group of drivers.
National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 18 – 24, 2015, brings focus to the problem of motor vehicle deaths involving teen drivers and encourages parents, teens, lawmakers, educators and others to advance solutions to this public health epidemic. According to Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates, “whether a teen is behind the wheel of a car or the wheel of a large semi-truck it is a dangerous and high risk situation. Teens are overinvolved in fatal crashes and threaten the safety of everyone on the road. We need commonsense safety solutions and laws in place before handing over the keys to the car to a young, novice driver. When trucking interests try to put teens in the cab of a large 80,000 lbs. truck driving long hours at high speeds it is a catastrophe waiting to happen. It’s hard to believe that this proposal by the trucking industry is even getting serious consideration in Congress but unfortunately it may become law unless it is stopped.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. On average, seven teens are killed in the United States each day as a result of motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, 3,139 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers aged 15 to 19 and overall traffic fatalities are on the rise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) preliminary figures for the first quarter of 2015 indicate 7,500 people were killed in crashes, a nearly 10 percent increase in traffic fatalities over the same period in 2014.
New data from NHTSA also reveals teen drivers are engaging in reckless behaviors. In 2013, in fatal crashes involving 15-19 year olds in passenger vehicles, over half (55 percent) of teens killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts; 596 people died in crashes in which teen drivers had alcohol in their system; speeding was a factor for 29 percent of teen drivers in fatal crashes; and, 330 people were killed in crashes involving distracted teen drivers.
Additionally, younger commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers have higher crash rates. Studies of young CMV drivers show that large truck fatal crash involvement rates increase as the age of the driver decreases. CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes, and CMV drivers between the ages of 19-20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes. Yet, the Senate passed a bill (H.R. 22) that permits 18 year olds to drive 80,000 pound trucks for up to 82 hours a week. A provision in the transportation bill being considered today in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also allows teens to drive trucks across the country. This idea was overwhelmingly rejected in a rulemaking during the Bush Administration by the public, truck drivers and motor carrier companies. Special trucking interests are trying to circumvent opposition by going to Congress to roll back the minimum age of 21 for driving a large truck in interstate commerce.
Even though comprehensive state GDL laws which allow novice teen drivers to gain driving experience under safe conditions have resulted in 10-30 percent crash reductions among teen drivers, states have been not made enactment a priority. While every state has enacted at least one of seven GDL provision recommended by Advocates and others, no state has a comprehensive law as defined by Advocates. Comprehensive laws restrict nighttime hours teens can drive unsupervised; limit the number of teen passengers in the car; prohibit the use of a cell phone while driving; require supervised driving hours; and, set 16 as the minimum age for a learner’s permit and 18 as the minimum age for an unrestricted license. States with the strongest GDL laws are CT, DE, DC, IL, IN, KS, MA, MI, NJ, NY, NC, OH and RI. The states with the weakest GDL laws are AL, AZ, MS, NE and SD.
Little or no action occurred in several states with the most urgent need for upgrades to their GDL laws:
• Fatal crashes involving young drivers in Arizona increased more than 10 percent in 2013, claiming a life every 11 hours. Yet, Arizona’s GDL law remains one of the weakest in the nation, and the legislature, once again, failed to advance bills to restrict teen driver use of cell phones and an all-driver texting ban despite a statistically significant increase in distracted driving from 2013 – 2014.
• Florida ranks third in the nation for its high number of fatalities in crashes involving young drivers and its overall highway fatality rates remain above the national average. Yet, Florida was unsuccessful in advancing several bills to enact a GDL cell phone ban during the 2015 legislative session.
• Teen driver crashes are largely overrepresented in Nebraska. While teen drivers represented 7 percent of all licensed drivers in Nebraska, they are involved in 20 percent of all reported crashes and 67 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were not wearing their safety belt. Yet, during the last three sessions the legislature did not enact a single bill to directly address teen driver safety. Nebraska Senators should reintroduce the Roadway Safety Act to enact a primary seat belt law, upgrade GDL provisions, and protect teen drivers.
• South Dakota has one of the worst records for passing highway safety laws to protect teens. Unrestrained rear seat passengers are a serious safety problem especially considering they are often children and teens. In South Dakota, seventy percent of those killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2014 were not wearing a seat belt – up from 60 percent in 2013, and traffic fatalities increased three years in a row from 2012 to 2014. The legislature has an opportunity to help reverse these deadly trends in 2016 by upgrading its GDL provisions and passing a primary enforcement seat belt law for all positions.
Advocates urges Congress and state legislatures to honor National Teen Driver Safety Week by taking action that will attack the number one killer of teens and make our roads safer for all motorists.