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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 21, 2019
Statement of Cathy Chase,
President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,
On National Teen Driver Safety Week
States must take action to address the number one killer of American teens – motor vehicle crashes
In recent weeks, a number of states have taken aggressive action to curb teen use of vaping products in response to reports they may cause illness and even death. This National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 20-26, 2019), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) calls upon state leaders and legislators to apply similar urgency to the number one killer of American teens: motor vehicle crashes. Distraction, impairment, speeding and seat belt non-use are dangerous behaviors that become deadly when an inexperienced driver is behind the wheel. And, novice teen driver safety impacts all road users. In 2017 alone, 4,750 people died in crashes involving a young driver (ages 15 to 20), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
A comprehensive graduated driver licensing (GDL) program in every state is key to reducing this tragic death and injury toll. Between 1996, when the first three-stage GDL was implemented in the U.S., and 2017, teenage crash deaths declined by 53 percent (from 5,819 to 2,734) according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Yet, more can and should be done to improve GDL programs and curb the high number of teen driver crashes, deaths and injury. Pending legislation in five states merits support including:
- California: A bill sponsored by Asm. Robert Rivas (D) to extend GDL to older novice drivers up to age 21 (AB 1267)
- Nebraska: A bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Hilkemann to upgrade the GDL cell phone ban to primary enforcement (LB 40)
- New Jersey: A bill sponsored by Asm. Daniel Benson (D) and Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D) to require 50 hours of supervised behind the wheel driving. (AB 4108 / SB 335)
- Ohio: A bill sponsored by Reps. Gary Scherer (R) and Michael Sheehy (D) to require a one-year temporary instruction permit holding period, extend the minimum age for a probationary driver license from age 16 to 16.5, and extend the nighttime restriction provision to begin at 10 p.m. instead of the current start time at midnight. (HB 106)
- Pennsylvania: A bill sponsored by Sen. John Sabatina Jr. (D) to add a GDL cell phone ban to the state’s distracted driving law. (SB 131)
While every state has at least one component of a teen GDL program, no state has all six essential provisions, as rated by Advocates’ 2019 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws:
- 42 states missing a minimum age 16 for learner’s permit provision: (AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY)
- 4 states missing a minimum six-month holding period provision: (CT, NH, SD, WY)
- 24 states and DC missing a 50 hours of supervised driving provision: (AL, AK, AZ, AR, CT, DC, GA, IA, MA, MN, MS, MO, NE, NH, NJ, ND, OR, SC, SD, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI)
- 39 states and DC missing an optimal nighttime driving restriction provision: (AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WI, WY)
- 32 states missing an optimal passenger restriction provision: (AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, ND, OR, PA, SC, SD, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WY)
- 48 states and DC missing a minimum age 18 for unrestricted license provision: (AL, AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MA, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY)
- 19 states and DC missing an optimal GDL cell phone restriction provision: (AL, AK, AZ, CA, DC, FL, ID, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NY, OK, PA, SC, SD, VA, WY)
The higher risk of crashes associated with teen drivers is mirrored in research on commercial trucking. Commercial motor vehicle drivers under age 21 are 4 to 6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. Despite this evidence, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is continuing with an ill-advised pilot program to allow 18 to 20-year-olds to drive interstate behind the wheel of large trucks. Advocates strongly opposes this proposal as well as legislation, the DRIVE-Safe Act (H.R. 1374/S. 569), which would allow risky “teen truckers” to operate in interstate commerce. We are joined in our opposition to this serious degradation of safety by diverse stakeholders including safety groups, law enforcement, public health and consumer organizations, truck drivers and motor carriers, and truck crash victims and survivors.
For many teenagers, obtaining a driver’s license is a “rite of passage” that provides a remarkable degree of personal freedom. However, without proper guidance and commonsense restrictions, this newfound autonomy can end in the most tragic way imaginable. National Teen Driver Safety Week serves as a call to action for all states to recognize this danger, examine their GDL laws, and advance lifesaving upgrades that protect all road users and keep families whole.