TEEN DRIVING

 This time of year there are more temptations and dangers for our young drivers. Out door concerts, amusement parks, swim clubs, and summer vacation are events that students look forward to every year. Unfortunately, the excitement and fun can turn tragic if our teens are not careful. We read of horrific teen car crashes in the newspaper much too often.

Teenagers have the highest crash risk of any age group - about four times higher than older drivers. In 2003, there were 38,252 fatal crashes nationwide. More than 8,000 of those fatal crashes involved teen drivers. Why else would automobile insurance be so high for teen drivers? Teen drivers are involved in a highly disproportionate number of car crashes.

Ohio is trying to protect young drivers through the new Graduated Drivers License Program. On April 6, 2007, Ohio’s new law went into effect. This law changes the current license program by placing special restrictions on young drivers. These restrictions are designed to assist the young driver in his/her driving development.

To help reduce the number of teen car crashes, the Ohio legislature passed the Graduated Drivers License Law earlier this year. The law limits the amount of high-risk situations young drivers encounter by limiting the number of passengers allowed in a teen’s car and extending the night-time curfew for drivers under the age of 18. Sixteen year-olds may only have one passenger and cannot drive between 12 midnight and 6 AM. Seventeen years-olds cannot drive between 1 AM and 6 AM.

It is largely a parent’s responsibility to make sure their teen follows the guidelines. While it may seem like an inconvenience at first, other states have found passenger limits to be safer.

Ohio undeniably needed this law. The riskiest time for teens is when they first begin driving. Our old system failed our young drivers by giving them complete independence after only six months of supervised driving. The key to the new Graduated Drivers License Program is that it keeps teens in the learning phase longer by withholding a full-privilege license until teens are older, more mature, and more experienced. This allows the law to take the pressure off the parents. It makes it easier for a parent to tell a teen, "No you can’t, it is the law".

The Graduated Drivers License law should limit the number of teen car crashes during this high-risk time. I strongly encourage parents to talk with their young drivers about the risks of driving and the importance of this law. You the parent can be more restrictive than the law. You know your teen. You know the maturity level of your teen. You know the driving ability of your teen. Just because the law allows a teen to drive, this does not mean, you the parent must allow the teen to drive. Together we can work to make our teens safer on the road.