Pa., nation spotlight teen driver safety

In 2007, Congress established National Teen Driver Safety Week, the third week of October, to focus attention on the number one killer of teens: motor vehicle crashes.

From 2009 to 2013, statistics showed that 97,712 crashes involving a 16- to 19-year-old driver occurred in Pennsylvania, resulting in 759 fatalities. Although progress has been made in reducing those numbers, researchers say more needs to be done, and the latest statistics show New Jersey ahead of the curve.

According to a study by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, an arm of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), New Jersey is the only state to extend full Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) provisions to all novice drivers under age 21. That provision that has helped reduce crash rates, which are linked to age and inexperience, the study said. It recommends that all states consider extending the GDL requirement to age 21.

In late 2011, Pennsylvania tightened restrictions on teen drivers, such as increasing the amount of behind-the-wheel training and limiting the number of passengers. However, officials said the state has no pending legislation to extend the GDL restrictions to age 21.

However, the state is observing National Teen Driver Safety Week, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced on Monday, Oct. 20, that a new partnership would help keep teen drivers safer and save the commonwealth nearly $70,000 in annual printing costs by replacing and subsidizing a drivers’ training handbook, a PennDOT press release said.

“The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program,” developed by the Safe Roads Alliance and sponsored by State Farm Insurance and Sheetz Inc., provides parents with a guide designed as an easy-to-follow primer to help teens become safe and responsible drivers.  The alliance is a nonprofit dedicated to improving highway safety by improving driver education, particularly behind-the-wheel training.

The program also provides a mobile app to help parents track their teen’s practice drive times and training progress. Booklets have been printed and distributed to driver license centers statewide and will be distributed to all teen drivers when a learner’s permit is issued.

PennDOT reported that more than 46 percent of the crashes involving a 16- to 19-year old driver in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2013 resulted from either the teen driving too fast for conditions (24,452 crashes), driver inexperience (9,652), driver distraction (9,571) or improper/careless turning (8,009).

For more information on the “Parent’s Supervised Driving Program,” visit http://www.theparentssuperviseddrivingprogram.com. PennDOT also partners with safety groups and law enforcement for teen-driver safety education and training. For more information on resources, visit PennDOT’s highway safety website, www.JustDrivePA.com, and visit the “Young Driver” information center or school programs page in the “Resources” section.

To learn more about CHOP’s research, visit http://injury.research.chop.edu/blog/posts/older-teen-driver-crash-rates-new-jersey’s-gdl-experience#.VEZ-g74yDwx.

 

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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