Letter to the Editor

National Teen Driver Safety Week

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Parenting is not an easy task, and parenting teenagers comes with its own unique set of challenges. During National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 18-24, the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau is teaming up with law enforcement across the state to help empower parents to discuss the importance of safe driving habits with their young drivers. This week and every week, parents should have conversations with their teens about the important rules they need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel. This week, or any time, is a perfect time to begin and continue the conversation, and to remind parents not to hand over the car keys until their teen knows the rules of the road.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States ahead of all other types of injury, disease, or violence. In 2018, there were 2,121 people killed in crashes involving a teen driver (15 to 18 years old), of which 719 deaths were the teen driver.

Alcohol and Drugs All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol. However, nationally in 2018, 16% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. But alcohol isn't the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely. Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver's ability to react to their surroundings. Remind teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.

Seat Belts Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. Yet too many teens aren't buckling up. In 2018, almost half (45%) of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died were unbuckled. Even more troubling, when the teen driver involved in the fatal crash was unbuckled, 9 out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled.

Distracted Driving Distractions while driving are more than just risky they can be deadly. In 2018, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, almost 10% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. The use of mobile devices while driving is a big problem, but there are other causes of teen distracted driving which pose dangers as well. They include adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating or drinking, or distractions from other passengers in the vehicle.

Speeding In 2018, almost one-quarter (28%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, and males were more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than females.

Passengers Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to disastrous results. Research shows the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.

Drowsy Driving Teens are busier than ever: studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends are among the long list of things they do to fill their time. However, with all of these activities, teens tend to compromise something very important sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

In 2019, Iowa lost 39 young drivers between the ages of 14-20 in motor vehicle crashes. Seven of those drivers had a blood alcohol over the legal limit. The Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau encourages you to talk to your teen drivers about safe driving practices. Losing even one is one too many, don't you think?

(Statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Genie Sterbenz

GTSB Program Administrator