Question of the Week

November 11, 2002  


"Teenagers often think of a driver‚s license as a ticket to freedom, saidState Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie M. Beitsch. 'It‚s also an important occasion for parents, as well,' he said. 'Although parents are aware of
the high crash rates among 16-year-olds, they're relieved not to have to chauffeur their children around anymore. But the price can be steep.'"

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 6, 2002 SB-02-35

"Washington, D.C. -- National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] Acting Chairman Carol J. Carmody today addressed a Graduated Driver Licensing Symposium in Chatham, Massachusetts, at which she announced new Safety Board recommendations aimed at protecting young, novice drivers, those who ride with them, as well as other drivers.... statistics show that traffic crashes are the leading cause of deaths of 15 to 20 year olds in the United States..."

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 4,216 teens, ages 16-19, died in auto crashes in 2000. 'Teens and young adults are killed at far higher rates in crashes because they are caught in a lethal
intersection of inexperience, risk taking and low seat belt use,' said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta."

"...a person wearing a seat belt had a 70% better chance of surviving the crash than a non-belted person. Collisions are the leading cause of death for children ages 4 to 14 and, in the year 2000, more than half of all
children killed in crashes in the U.S. were completely unrestrained."

"Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group. Per mile traveled, they have the highest involvement rates in all types of crashes, from those involving only property damage to those that are fatal. The problem is worst among 16 year-olds, who have the most limited driving experience and an immaturity that often results in risk-taking behind the wheel. The characteristics of 16 year-olds' fatal crashes highlight these problems..."

"Fewer 16-year-olds have been involved in car crashes since the state passed a graduated driver's license law in 1997, but accidents caused by older teenagers have shot up over the same period, according to California
Highway Patrol statistics.... The statistics have safety experts searching for an explanation for why teen accidents have risen since the initiation of a law designed to curb them....He said an increase in driver
distractions in the last five years, most notably cell phone use, may be partly to blame for the rise in teen accidents."

I have a good friend with Multiple Sclerosis. When her oldest son got his license, he was able to help transport his three other siblings since she could no longer drive. Where are the news stories about teens who use their new skill for good? Cell phones, alcohol, drugs, friends in the car, less seat belt use, and
just the excitement of a new freedom. Teens have a reputation as unsafe, immature, and inexperienced drivers. Is this reputation deserved? Experience comes with time. No one had experience when they first began

The NTSB and legislators from various states want new regulations to further restrict teen driving. Is this a good idea? Would this postpone accidents until these teens were eighteen and new drivers, or would this new legislation save lives? What would this do for teens who drive to help their families?

Question of the Week:
Who should decide what regulations are placed on teen drivers? Who decides if there can be exceptions to the rule when teenagers need to help their families? What can teens (and adults) do to help make the roads safer--with or without legislation?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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