Time for Refocused Effort on Teen Driving Accidents

Advocating for highway and auto safety in CT.


I have intentionally not written an article on accident prevention or teen safety issues since the horrific event that befell our friends and neighbors in Sandy Hook. The overwhelming sadness that was felt by people around the world made this subject matter seem insensitive and inappropriate. I struggled with when might be the right time to once again advocate for these issues and this week I received, what I believe, was the answer.

My friend and colleague on the CT DMV Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving, Sherry Chapman, sent her fellow committee members an e-mail on Monday. Sherry is in Washington DC at the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety’s Press Conference this week where they are going to announce how each state is doing in its efforts to fight teen driving accidents and teen deaths.

Sherry is the founder and president of Mourning Parents Act, Inc. Sherry’s involvement is a result of losing her 19-year-old son Ryan in a car accident in 2002. Sherry continues in her very valiant effort to spare others the unimaginable grief that she continues to endure. It is through Sherry’s tireless efforts that I have decided to resume this column now because it is always the appropriate time to carry on the work of attempting to prevent accidents, reduce injuries and save lives.

There can be far fewer times when we should be more mindful than ever about how dear human life is and that each of us have an opportunity, and I would suggest a responsibility, to be a part of this important movement that is championed by people like Sherry Chapman. If you are not moved to volunteer and get involved personally in some way, at least help to become more involved in being parents who are very vigilant in educating your children as to acceptable behaviors, being good role models, and properly dealing with situations which could create increased risks to themselves and others.

If you have a teen who is just starting the driving process, please go to www.ct.gov/teendriving and download the free Teen Parent Driving Agreement so you can carefully review it with your teen and have this much needed conversation about your expectations and the consequences for violations of the rules.

It is the hope of people like Sherry Chapman that we be spared something that no parent should ever have to endure. Please help her in becoming a part of her effort and the efforts of so many like her. Our collective hearts ache for all of those affected by these horrible tragedies, and especially our friends and neighbors in Sandy Hook. As one parent who lost a child in a recent accident so poignantly remarked, “we will get through this, but we will never get over it.”

Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. He is a member of the CT DMV Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving. He has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut" and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." He has also co-authored the best selling book "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing- What Your Insurance Company Doesn't Want You to Know and Won't Tell You Until It's Too Late!" He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.

Carolyn Finch January 20, 2013 at 03:50 PM
I just read my grandaughter's essay for school where she sites information on the many accidents by teens on their way to school in the darkness of the morning. She also sites information that states if teens started school later, they would function better and even get better grades. Research also states that most teens learn driving behaviors from their parents such as talking on a cell phone and eating in the car. Perhaps driver education classes should be for both the parent and the teen. What is your thought on this information?
Steven DeVaux January 20, 2013 at 04:22 PM
<smiling> You are so right. Kids learn 80% of what they know from their parents do - not what their parents say.
Rob Gianazza January 20, 2013 at 05:21 PM
You have two distinctly different issues here. One is the time school starts for educational purposes and second driver safety. School start times are dictated by availability of transportation. For cost effectiveness, buses need to run in shifts. Brookfield recently consolidated from four to three shifts. If students feel they are in danger driving at such an early hour, perhaps they should take the bus. It's free! Adjusting start time has ramifications in addition to busing. The later you start, the less time that is available for extra-curricular activities and after school jobs. It's a trade off that would best be addressed by the Board of Education. I encourage you to bring this to their attention.
Andrew Turkenkopf January 21, 2013 at 08:47 AM
Current teen driving rules (with the whole graduated license process and the associated rules about passengers and time of day when they can drive) are already way stricter than the rules were 15-20 years ago. And if I recall correctly, there has been a reduction in preventable accidents. But in my personal view, anything more would just be draconian, and as sad as it, we as a society must accept that accidents do occur, and focus more on education of teen drivers and their parents as well as increased enforcement. Furthermore, with respect to early morning darkness accidents, perhaps a bigger part of the problem is teenagers staying up way too late and not getting enough sleep (this also affects school performance.) Also, there seems to be a general consensus that students have a "right" to be driving to school. Now of course, when I was a high school student, I appreciated being able to drive to school (or before I could drive, getting driven by my older friends in a passenger situation that could not occur today [3 or 4 fellow teens as passengers in a minivan,) and I was also somewhat miffed when BHS would not grant me a parking pass for the second half of Junior year (I was getting my license in january.) continued . . .
Andrew Turkenkopf January 21, 2013 at 08:54 AM
continuation . . . So driving to school seems just to be a perk for those students without after school jobs that they might need to drive to, but with the open BHS campus (where students can leave early and return [something they didn't start until post 2000]) as well as making it easier to accommodate schedules chock-full of after school sports and extracurricular activities and the whole coolness factor of being able to drive, it is a somewhat useful/needed perk. Furthermore, the only way to create good/safe drivers is allow them to practice driving in all types of conditions (which is why I have no problem with keeping current school start time and teenagers driving in early dawn.) Also perhaps I have less faith in teenagers (or just better information) but I think if start time of school was made later, they would just stay up even later and be just as tired.


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