Representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Department of Education and local safety advocates held a face-to-face forum at Northeastern High School in Manchester, sharing their collective knowledge with students to kick off Teen Driver Safety Week in Pennsylvania.
PennDOT held the forum to call attention to teen driver safety and share important safety information directly with teen drivers during the nationwide observance October 20-26. The question and answer format of the forum gave these teens a chance to glean valuable information from knowledgeable sources they may otherwise never get to speak with. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among teens.
“We must remember that we all have a part in making highways safer, and we all need to work together to help new drivers gain valuable experience and knowledge,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Parents and teachers are an integral part of establishing a mentality of safety behind the wheel among teen drivers.”
From 2014 to 2018, there were 85,736 crashes involving at least one 16- to 19-year old driver in Pennsylvania, resulting in 530 fatalities. Nearly 69 percent of those crashes involved the teen driver driving too fast for conditions (30,010 crashes), driver inexperience (9,242), driver distraction (14,391) or improper/careless turning (13,314). There was a total of 58,789 crashes involving one or more of these factors.
The risk of a crash involving any of these factors can be reduced through practice, limiting the number of passengers riding with a teen driver, obeying all rules of the road, and using common sense.
“Parents can encourage safe driving behavior by consistently modeling good habits behind the wheel, starting long before their teen gets a learner’s permit,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “We can each do our part to set a positive example by eliminating distractions, driving defensively, and ensuring everyone in the car is buckled up.”
PennDOT recommends that parents consider the following suggestions to help their children become safe and responsible drivers:
- Have regular conversations with your teen about safe driving skills, even before they get their learner’s permit.
- Establish a parent/teen driving contract.
- Strongly encourage your teen to avoid distractions behind the wheel, such as talking or texting on their cell phones.
- Limit the number of passengers your teen may have in their vehicle.
- Limit dawn, dusk, and nighttime driving until your teen gains more experience and enforce a curfew. Remember, state law prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds with a junior license from driving between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM.
- Gradually increase the amount of time/distance your teen is allowed to drive.
- Enforce observance of speed limits and other rules of the road.
- Ride with your teen occasionally after they receive their license to monitor driving skills.
- Set a good example with your own driving habits.
“Driving a motor vehicle is highly complex and requires skills that are honed over years of practice,” said Department of Education Executive Deputy Secretary David Volkman. “Driver education training programs are invaluable in teaching novice drivers, especially teenagers, the critical skills they need to successfully and safely navigate on the roads.”
As part of ongoing efforts to educate and assist teen drivers, PennDOT invites teens, their parents, teachers and others to share video messages on Instagram about the personal costs of a crash, close calls and advice on avoiding crashes. They can join in this important conversation by using the hashtag #PATeenDriver.