This is National Teen Driver Safety Week and to mark the occasion SafeKids, an organization I have long supported and helped promote, is doing all it can to publicize a set of simple, common sense, safety tips. Known as the “5 to Drive” the campaign aims to cut teen fatalities on our roads through simple, easy to remember, pointers:
- Don’t drink and drive
- Buckle Up. Every Trip.
- Put it Down: Don’t text or talk on the phone
- Stop Speeding
- No More than One Passenger at a Time
As SafeKids outlines in their news release announcing the initiative (see link below) the problem is both real and immediate. “Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year olds in the United States,” the group notes. In 2013 over 2,600 teens in that age group were killed in vehicle crashes and a further 130,000 injured.
The first four points on the list have been the subject of many education campaigns over the years. Legally speaking teens should not be drinking at all and, like all drivers, they must wear seat belts. Oregon and many other states already have distracted driving laws on the books and speeding has been well-established as a leading cause of road accidents for generations. The final point on the list is less obvious but equally important. According to SafeKids “with each passenger in the vehicle, your teen’s risk of a fatal crash goes up.” Because that fact is less well known it deserves particular emphasis. It adds that because of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, in some states carrying more than one passenger is illegal for younger drivers. Here in Oregon newly licensed teen drivers are not allowed to carry any passengers under the age of 20 for the first 6 months they hold a license. During the second six-month period after earning a license they can carry no more than 3 under-20 passengers (in both cases family members are an exception to the rule).
As a Portland car crash lawyer with a practice focusing on injuries to children I welcome this initiative. I am especially happy to see that SafeKids is focusing its attention as much on parents as on teens themselves. As the group notes: “parents and caregivers are the biggest influence on a teen’s safety behind the wheel. Parents need to take the time to talk with their kids about the dangers of driving.” I might add that they also need to set a good example, by buckling up themselves, keeping off the phone, driving sober and observing the speed limit.
SafeKids Oregon: Talk to Teens About the “5 to Drive”
Governors Highway Safety Association: State-by-State list of GDL Laws