"Motor vehicle crashes kill more teens than disease or other circumstances. Many crashes are preventable when safety is foremost in minds of these drivers,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy. “This week helps to continue our state's efforts to remind our young drivers that safety is everyone’s responsibility. I want to thank the safety advocates and educators who work to drive this message home and save lives.” Three mothers whose teenage sons were killed in car crashes in 2002 championed this special week in Connecticut and formed a safety advocacy group called !MPACT also known as Mourning Parents Act. Much of the credit for the teen driving awareness goes to these and many other advocates who each day give time, energy and money to promote safety to novice drivers, their parents or guardians, and their communities. Because of tougher teen driving laws and the public outreach from these advocates, Connecticut has seen an 82-percent decrease since 2004 in 16- or 17-year-old driver deaths.
“Our many community supporters and advocates should be congratulated for their work. This is a special time for community leaders, schools and others to talk about this critical safety issue in every community throughout our state. We have come a long way and we still have work to do in spreading this safety message,” said DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey.
Connecticut in 2014 marked the 10th anniversary of starting its first set of teen driving restrictions in its Graduated Driver Licensing law for 16 and 17 year-olds. The last decade saw a re-make of the ways that parents, teens, school officials, state policymakers and safety advocates confront issues with this young, vulnerable group of drivers killing and injuring themselves and others on the state’s roads and highways. The result has been tremendous improvement as well as new challenges, such as:
• An 82-percent decrease since 2004 of 16- or 17-year-old driver deaths.
• A 64-percent reduction in the deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers when comparing the four-year period prior to the imposition of restrictions (1999-2003) to the four-year period after enhanced restrictions (2008-2012) in Connecticut.
• How safety risks are developing for 18 and 19 year-olds who delayed getting a license and now possibly face increased chances of crashes, deaths and injuries.
• How drivers on a 2-to-1 basis are more often killed or injured in crashes than passengers.
• Reductions in police summonses, but no clear reasons for the downward trend.
• Continued dangers of distracted driving for teens behind the wheel and in the vehicle.
• Reaching out to teens in various multi-cultural communities in Connecticut as a new legislatively approved program begins January 1 for undocumented residents who want to obtain driver licenses.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Office at the State Department of Transportation, along with the DMV and others, have special programs geared toward this age group.
“The Connecticut Department of Transportation is committed to teen driver safety,” said DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker. “As a member of the State Coalition for the Prevention of Underage Drinking, our Highway Safety Office has funded and promoted a variety of safe-driving programs, visiting high schools around the state, using state-of-the-art distracted driving simulators and an educational documentary that has impacted thousands of students in our state.”
Outreach work across the state during the last several years has taken many forms. It included new and ramped up programs at DMV and DOT. Among DMV programs are a teen safe driving video contest, co-sponsored with the insurance company Travelers, and a new teen driver-passenger safety awareness program called “You’re NOT Just Along for The Ride – Safety Is EVERYONE’S Responsibility.” DOT has funded the “Not My Kid” public service announcement and media campaign this past summer to educate parents and teens about the dangers of teen drinking and driving and will have this message in 22 movie theaters in Connecticut during the holiday season. In addition, the Department's 'Save a Life Tour' distracted driving program has visited over 70 Connecticut high schools.
In addition, outreach has also occurred at other state agencies as well as at hospitals statewide that have increased their attention to the issue. Safety advocates have formed numerous groups, including !MPACT and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to address issues. High schools and law enforcement officials have teamed up to give educational presentations, including mock crashes. Communities developed programs, including those overseen by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Corporations, such as Travelers, State Farm and Allstate, joined with others in the state to lend financial support and other resources to send the message.
In one instance, a teen driving book for parents, recently published by Timothy Hollister of Bloomfield, has come from this growing chorus of people.
Below in a small sampling of some advocates, they describe their reasons for championing this safety issue and work they have done:
Sherry Chapman, President of !MPACT: "We raise awareness of the dangers of teen driving through our Drive 4 Tomorrow program. !MPACT's Drive 4 Tomorrow presentations are offered throughout the state free of charge to high schools, hospitals, driving schools, and other large groups. !MPACT has also been a strenuous proponent of legislation to protect the novice driver and teen passengers. !MPACT, along with other safety advocates in the state, was instrumental in Connecticut's adoption of the graduated licensing laws in effect today."
Dr. C. Steven Wolf, Chairman of Emergency Medicine, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center: “Underage drinking and driving can have tragic consequences and part of our mission is educating teens about the life-altering effects such a crash can have. In our programs students from across the state come to the hospital to visually see and feel the consequences of unsafe driving choices.” Timothy Hollister, sponsor of the Reid’s Dad blog on teen safe driving, and author: “With my book Not So Fast -- Parenting Your Teen Through The Dangers of Driving and my blog as tools, I am collaborating with Connecticut and national organizations to tell parents of teen drivers that they have the ability to prevent the very predictable, most dangerous situations from happening before their teens get behind the wheel.”
Garry Lapidus, Director of the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center: “We are working to reduce teen motor vehicle crashes by: 1) examining the two-hour mandatory teen-parent driver safety orientation program and working with the DMV, commercial driving schools, and others, on how it might be improved, 2) educating pediatricians and pediatric residents in training on how to provide teen driver safety anticipatory guidance in their clinical practice and, 3) organizing/mobilizing local communities to fully adopt Connecticut teen driver safety laws.”
Dr. David Shapiro, trauma surgeon at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center and advisor in the DMV-Travelers Teen Safe Driving Video Contest: “Saint Francis has been dedicated to keeping our young citizens safe for decades. The “Let’s Not Meet By Accident” program has hosted thousands of our 13-17 year-olds over the last 20 years, providing hands-on exposure to the experience of being a trauma patient and provider. Participants see everything from the trauma team to the helipad, and learn the importance of making safe, healthy decisions through their teenage years. In addition to discussions include alcohol and substance abuse and decision-making about risky behaviors. The teens participate in a Safe Driving Promise program and learn to become safer drivers. Our dedication to the safety of these young citizens prepares them for making better decisions as adults and live healthier, safer lives.”
Pina Violano, RN, Injury Prevention Coordinator, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospitial: “As a Level I trauma center, we have witnessed firsthand the devastation that families face following a motor vehicle crash resulting from unsafe teen driving practices. Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital is committed to our relationship with the DMV as well as other safety advocates to make an impact in reducing these types of events. We do this reaching diverse populations and preventing unsafe driving practices among all teens in the state of Connecticut.”
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