January 26, 2020
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Representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Department of Education, and local safety advocates joined forces to hold a face-to-face forum with teenagers at Northeastern High School in Manchester, PA, on October 21 during the nationwide observance of Teen Driver Safety Week, held October 20-26.

Leslie Richards

“We must remember that we all have a part in making highways safer, and we all need to work together to help new drivers gain valuable experience and knowledge,” noted PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards in a statement; adding that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among teens.

“Parents and teachers are an integral part of establishing a mentality of safety behind the wheel among teen drivers,” she said.

According to the Pennsylvania State Police, from 2014 to 2018, there were 85,736 crashes involving at least one 16- to 19-year old driver in Pennsylvania, resulting in 530 fatalities. Nearly 69 percent of those crashes involved the teen driver driving too fast for conditions (30,010 crashes), driver inexperience (9,242), driver distraction (14,391) or improper/careless turning (13,314). There was a total of 58,789 crashes involving one or more of these factors.

[The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety put a video together several years ago featuring teenage drivers “speaking frankly” about their driving habits.]

The risk of a crash involving any of these factors can be reduced through practice, limiting the number of passengers riding with a teen driver, obeying all rules of the road, and using common sense, PennDOT noted. To that end, the agency highlighted several tactics at the forum parents can use to help their children become safe and responsible drivers:

  • Have regular conversations with your teen about safe driving skills, even before they get their learner’s permit.
  • Establish a parent/teen driving contract.
  • Strongly encourage your teen to avoid distractions behind the wheel, such as talking or texting on their cell phone.
  • Limit the number of passengers your teen may have in their vehicle.
  • Limit dawn, dusk, and nighttime driving until your teen gains more experience and enforce a curfew. Remember, state law prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds with a junior license from driving between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time/distance your teen is allowed to drive.
  • Enforce observance of speed limits and other rules of the road.
  • Ride with your teen occasionally after they receive their license to monitor driving skills.
  • Set a good example with your own driving habits.

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