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Teen Driving Safety – Thinking Outside the Graduated Driver Licensing Laws Box
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. Sixty-one percent of teenage passengers die while riding with a teenage driver. In response to those two statements, most US states and territories have adopted GDL laws. GDL is an acronym for Graduated Driving License. While the GDL does not guarantee that your teen will avoid a citation or injury in a crash, there are ways to help assess a teen driver’s maturity and experience that can increase his or her safety.
If your teenager is itching to learn to drive, getting to know the GDL in your area will be one of the most important laws to understand. However, thinking beyond GDL requirements and restrictions is essential to increasing the safety of teenage drivers. Parents are the key to the safety of teenage drivers when they know which ‘knowledge lock’ to open.
As an injury prevention educator at a local hospital, I teach youth and parents how to effectively use GDL components. In an effort to reach more parents with this important information, I am sharing most of what I teach through a series of articles.
Most components of the GDL Act include: Minimum supervised driving requirements; Transportation of siblings and family; Peer Transport; curfew; Driving Log. These five components generally focus on the minimum legal requirements, but do not explain how to effectively use the components to incorporate security measures.
The first article in this series explained how the maturing role of the prefrontal cortex is intricately involved in teen driving development and focused on how to help a teen develop well-practiced driving skills to prepare a teen for their license.
Thinking outside the box of GDL for passenger limits and curfews
While GDL passenger carriage laws vary from state to state in relation to siblings and family members versus peer carriage, it is important to note:
1. Younger siblings are the most difficult second passengers to control; drunk passengers are the most difficult to control;
2. Older siblings are often critical and upset the new driver;
3. Most GDL laws allow the immediate carriage of up to three peer passengers in the second 6 months of the licence;
4. The potential for a fatal accident almost doubles when carrying three passengers of the same age;
5. Sixty-one percent of teenagers killed in traffic accidents are passengers of teenage drivers.
NOTE: Even as veteran drivers, it is difficult for parents to control child passengers and drunks. Why should we think newly licensed teenagers are capable? Endangering a teenage driver and his passengers for comfort is dangerous. Protecting teenage drivers and their passengers is risk management under parental control.
Sibling passenger transportation strategies to consider
Allow teenage drivers to carry siblings after their first year of solo driving
Parents help teens choose peers based on the reliable behavior of the teens under consideration
Once peer-to-peer passenger transportation is legal, allow teenagers to carry only one passenger at a time during the first year of their license
Allow the carriage of two passengers in the second year of the license
Postpone the transportation of three peers until the teenager drives without any citations or crashes for at least 2.5 years
Parents should always be the driver when teen teams need transportation and never rely on teen drivers to provide transportation
In addition, exposure to legal liability extends to parents as long as the children are tax-deductible dependents or the parents pay a higher amount of support for youth over 18 years of age. Bearing in mind that car accidents are the leading cause of death in 15-20 years, there is good reason to ban college-aged youth from driving until they are in school until their senior year. However, even veteran drivers who have been behind the wheel for a long time need time to re-develop their driving acuity, so driving acuity is also compromised for youngsters who have not driven for a long time and therefore need a little ‘driving supervision’ before they are allowed back to drive solo.
Most GDL laws include a midnight to 5:00 a.m. curfew. However, a large number of crashes involving teenagers occur right after school between 3:00-6:00 p.m., and more than 40% of teen crashes occur between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Speeding and distractions are recognized as major contributors to nighttime accidents for teenagers, but you may not be aware that nighttime driving requires additional skills.
Curfew security strategies to consider
Focus on developing teenagers’ safe, solid and reliable daily driving skills.
Drive with your teen occasionally to assess whether good driving habits are being undermined by unsafe behavior.
Practice night driving with your teen for a period of two years before allowing teens to drive at night.
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