FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, October 16, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, on Upcoming October Events — Teen Driver Safety Week and Halloween
“Scary” times for teen novice drivers and trick-or-treaters can be alleviated with proven safety countermeasures and advanced vehicle safety technology
As a parent or caregiver of a teenager, there are few moments as “frightening” as handing over the car keys to her/him/them. I joined these trepidatious ranks this year and during Teen Driver Safety Week (October 18-24, 2020) want to stress the importance of advocating for safer drivers, safer vehicles and safer infrastructure.
Similarly “terrifying” is the fact that on Halloween nights from 2013-2017, 42 percent of those killed in traffic crashes involved at least one drunk driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Additionally, child pedestrians (14 and younger) are particularly vulnerable and accounted for 17 percent of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in 2018. Moreover, many more pedestrian fatalities occur in the dark than during the day, and 74 percent of pedestrian fatalities happen at non-intersections. A “witch’s brew” of these circumstances occurs on Halloween.
To make our roadways safer for all, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges elected officials to enact the following optimal state traffic safety laws and advance lifesaving technology.
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Programs
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for young drivers (15 to 20 years old) in the United States. In 2018, 4,492 people were killed in crashes involving young drivers, of which 1,719 deaths were the young driver. To mitigate this persistent public safety threat, GDL programs introduce driving in phases, lowering the risk of a crash. States that have adopted GDL programs have seen crash reductions between 10 and 30 percent for teen drivers. Advocates urges all states to enact comprehensive GDL programs that, at minimum:
- Set the minimum age for a learner’s permit at 16;
- Require a 6-month holding period which includes supervision by an adult;
- Require 50 hours of supervised driving with at least 10 hours at night;
- Restrict nighttime driving;
- Restrict the number of passengers in the vehicle with the novice driver;
- Set the age for an unrestricted license at 18; and,
- Prohibit cell phone use while driving except in an emergency.
A more detailed description of optimal GDL laws can be found in Advocates’ 2020 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws.
Seat Belt Laws
Another proven countermeasure that should be enacted in every state is a primary enforcement seat belt law that applies to all seating positions. Nearly half of passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2018 were not wearing seat belts (in crashes when restraint use was known), and NHTSA estimates that deaths and injuries resulting from non-use of seat belts cost society approximately $10 billion annually. Studies have shown that seat belt use by teens is among the lowest of any segment of society. As parents, we teach our teens about the safest driving practices including always wearing a seat belt. Enacting optimal traffic safety laws reinforces this parental messaging. It’s not just your parents, it’s the law!
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and Impaired Driving Prevention Technology
To realize its full lifesaving potential, proven safety technology that prevents crashes must be required in all new vehicles, with a minimum performance standard. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that ADAS can significantly reduce crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended collision avoidance technologies as key to preventing not only vehicle collisions but also crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities both reached their highest level in nearly three decades in 2018, according to NHTSA.
While NHTSA continues to rely on ineffective, voluntary programs to advance crash avoidance technology, the U.S. House of Representatives took decisive action on July 1, 2020, by passing the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2) to require ADAS in all new vehicles, subject to minimum performance requirements and to advance rules on impaired driving prevention technology. This legislation should become the law of the land.
Unfortunately, early estimates from NHTSA reveal higher crash fatality rates during the first half of 2020, despite a reduction in vehicle miles traveled. Overcoming these “horrors” that plague our roadways requires pursuing proven solutions.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.