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Rethinking Ways to Reduce Teen Driving Accidents

Would parents want greater restrictions imposed on their teen drivers?

Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to die in a crash than drivers who are 25 to 69. Teen drivers not only put themselves at risk, but often times other parties as well. To further complicate matters, distracted driving is becoming an epidemic.

A recent University of Utah study found that text messaging, while driving, increases the risk of a crash by eight times, making texting while driving twice as dangerous as drinking and driving. Texting is considered one of the top communication methods of teens, who average about 100 texts per day.

One of the biggest challenges facing teen drivers is a lack of education and driving experience. So what can be done to help reduce teen accidents? This past week, my daughter’s college friend from Canada stayed with us and we learned of Canada’s system for teen drivers.

Canada has what is known as a graduated licensing system. In Quebec, teens are able to obtain a learners permit at age 16. Then, after a year (8 months with a driver’s education program) the teen can apply for a probationary license which still has several restrictions. Holders of this license are limited to four points (as opposed to 15 for a regular driver’s license), before their license is suspended for three months.

Canada’s system of suspending a teen’s driver’s license after receiving a limited number of “points” seems like a good way to educate teens and provide them with a stern reminder, the suspension of their license, for failing to comply with motor vehicle laws.

Potentially, with more education and experience behind the wheel, and with more stringent penalties, we can reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by teen drivers. This objective might be more easily accomplished if we were to institute a method of suspending a teen's license if the teen is caught breaking the rules of the road, such as talking on their cell phone or texting while driving. In addition to suspending the teen's license a mandatory driver retraining program could also be required.

As parents we sometimes assume that once our teen gets their license that they are adequately prepared to operate a motor vehicle with little further involvement on our parts. It is important to remember that this is the time when we need to be most vigilant in helping to educate and monitor our teen's behavior. If they realize that they run the risk of losing their license for violations such as texting while driving then this might help to curb this very danerous behavior and hopefully prevent these needless accidents.

What do you think?

Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. A graduate of Fordham Law School, he has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of numerous books. He is an outspoken advocate for teen driver safety reform and education and as a result was appointed to DMV Commissioner Melody Currey's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving which is investigating proposed national models for parent and teen education and accident prevention. The views here are his own and not that of the Committee. He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.

Rob Gianazza July 14, 2012 at 01:44 PM
We as parents need to step up and stop relying on the government to do our parenting for us. With all these ideas presented comes a cost. The cost is a loss of individual freedom and responsibility we're supposed to be teaching our young adults to embrace. And what about the enforcement of these ideas? How many vehicles are already on the roads operated by individuals with either no license or a suspended license? It's easy to propose laws and regulations to control the public, it's a lot harder to enforce them in practice.
Brookfield Mom July 15, 2012 at 02:30 PM
When I was a teenager the law in NH (where I grew up) was that a teen could get their license at 16 only if they passed a driver's ed class as well as the state driver's test (written and practical). If they opted not to take driver's ed they had to wait until age 18 to take the state tests.

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