teen driver safety week

The Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced this week as national Teen Driver Safety Week. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for U.S. teens 15 to 19 years old.

Multiple state agencies are making teen driver safety a priority and encouraging parents and caregivers to set aside time this week to get involved. “Our office has made great strides in communicating safe driving practices directly to teen drivers,” said Kendell Poole, Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office. “However, we need this information reinforced at home. Parents should not just hand over the keys without having a discussion about the rules of the road. These young drivers need guidance now more than ever.”

Tennessee’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program is a multi-tiered program designed to ease young novice drivers into full driving privileges as they become more mature and develop their driving skills. It places certain restrictions on teens under the age of 18 who have learner permits and driver licenses. The program requires parent/legal guardian involvement and emphasizes the importance of a good driving record.

“The Graduated Driver License law was put into effect in Tennessee in 2001,” said Director of Driver Services Michael Hogan.  “It has been a huge asset in educating teens to be safe drivers as well as develop their driving skills. Driving a vehicle is a privilege, and teens are expected to take the privilege seriously by making safe choices when driving.  Parents are part of this life-saving initiative and we encourage all parents to know the GDL law.”

Last year, there were over 100 fatalities statewide that involved a teen driver. Reckless or inexperienced driving puts the teen, as well as everyone around the teen driver, at risk. A recent study suggests that nearly 14% of Tennessee parents are not aware that a GDL law exists.

“From 2010 to 2014, 357 teens between the ages of 15-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in Tennessee,” said Tennessee Department of Health Injury Prevention Manager Terrence Love. “The GDL ‘graduated’ steps such as:  limiting teen passengers, limiting driving hours at night, supervised practice driving, seat belt use, and eliminating distracted driving are GDL legal requirements that parents can use as tools to reduce teen crashes and fatalities.  Our department is committed to working with parents, students, and law enforcement to increase GDL awareness and compliance.”

Parents can find more information about talking to their young drivers at www.safercar.gov/parents. If you are an educator and would like to bring traffic safety activities to your school, visit www.reducetncrashes.org.