To The Editor:
The number of 16-and 17-year old driver deaths in passenger vehicles increased slightly for the first six months of 2011 based on preliminary data recently released in a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
Overall nationwide, 16-and 17-year old driver deaths increased from 190 to 211, an 11 percent increase. If the trend continued for the second half of 2011, it will mark the end of eight consecutive years of cumulative declines in deaths for this age group. In New Jersey the opposite trend is occurring with two 16-to 17-year old driver deaths reported for the first six months of 2011 compared to three fatalities for the same six-month period in 2010.
While the decrease in New Jersey’s teen driver death rate is a positive sign, legislatively more work needs to be done to ensure that our teens stay safe while driving. Requiring increased driving instruction time with parent supervision and continuing public awareness campaigns is the best formula for lowering teen driver deaths.
Two factors appear to be contributing to nationwide uptick in teen driver deaths:
1. The positive effects of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws and law upgrades that went into effect between 1996 and 2010 may be leveling off, since most of these laws have been in place for some time.
2. Improved personal economic conditions are perhaps contributing to more teens on the road compared to the 2008 and 2009 economic downturn which appears to have kept teens off the road most likely for financial reasons.
AAA offers online tools and information to help parents work with their teen drivers in learning to drive and staying safe on the road. The motor club’s website, www.aaa.com/teendriving, helps parents and teens manage the complex learning-to-drive process by providing them with state-specific information that they need based on the teen’s progress toward licensure. The site features a series of online lessons and newsletters based on the National Institutes of Health’s “Checkpoints”program, which has been proven to help parents improve teen driver safety and is being offered nationally for the first time. The site also offers an online version of AAA’s workshop and lessons from the motor club’s “Teaching Your Teen To Drive” program, both of which assist families that are or soon will be learning to drive.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, serves nearly 4 million members in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and throughout Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia, and is on the web at aaa.com/community.