Teen Drivers Urged to Take the 'High Road'

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Teen Drivers Urged to Take the 'High Road'

MARYLAND - 10/20/2009

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Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of American teenagers.  In fact, this year, Maryland teenagers will be involved in more than 20,000 crashes, and approximately 100 will be fatal.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, young drivers (16 to 20 years old) were involved in approximately 1.6 million, or 26 percent of all automobile crashes (6 million) nationwide in 2008. Additionally, 7,975 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving young drivers.

For this reason, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) is calling attention to these tragic and preventable deaths and injuries by participating in the National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 18-24). The National theme or slogan is Ride Like a Friend.  In support of NTDSW, SHA county safety coordinators and advocates will participate in a variety of different educational activities including but, not limited to: educational outreach and material distribution, school presentations, and other various Teen Driver Safety Program launches.

Additionally, on October 1st several new safety laws took effect.  Teens now must be   16 years and 6 months to apply for a license. The new law also extends the learner's permit period (the minimum amount of time a new driver must have a learner’s permit without receiving any citations) from six to nine months before teens may apply for a provisional license. Maryland also joined 18 other states throughout the region making texting while driving illegal. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $500 and three points on their driving record.

“We owe our newly minted drivers every opportunity possible to develop safe driving habits,” said SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen, who serves as the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Apart from parental guidance and law enforcement, the single most effective way for teens to stay alive is to take responsibility for their own safety and well-being.”   
This year’s awareness week is rallying schools and communities to raise awareness of the risks involved and possible solutions to the high rate of crashes involving teen drivers and their teen passengers.  This year’s theme focuses on increasing awareness of how teen passengers contribute to this serious problem.  A recent study, published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows that while most teen drivers buckle up, many of their passengers fail to do so.  Furthermore, it is also well documented that one of the most significant risk factors in vehicle crash deaths for young passengers age 8 to 17 is riding with young drivers.

With safety its number one priority, Teen Driver Safety Week is one component of the Maryland State Highway Administration’s partnership with the Choose Safety for Life campaign. This campaign provides one voice for drivers, motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and truckers. With 93 percent of traffic crashes occurring because someone made a wrong choice on Maryland roadways, virtually all traffic crash fatalities could be prevented if everyone practices these five key steps: B-SAFE – Buckle up, Slow down – speeding kills, Always drive sober, Focus, Everyone share the road.

Citizens can learn more about teen Driving Safety by logging onto www.choosesafetyforlife.com/youngdrivers.htm or www.drivingskillsforlife.com

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