“It is tragic and unacceptable that, on average, 10 teen drivers lose their lives on Maryland roadways every year,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “Because teen drivers are at a greater risk due to inexperience, we hope parents will start the conversation about safe driving during National Teen Driver Safety Week. I urge them to continue those conversations – every day – to help keep their teens safe behind the wheel.”
Over the past five years in Maryland, more than 6,800 crashes annually involved a teen driver – nearly 6% of all crashes. NHTSA’s website has detailed information on teen driving and outlines basic rules parents can use to help reduce the risks for teen drivers. Self-reported surveys show teens whose parents set firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer crashes.
“Any fatality or serious injury in a highway crash is tragic, but when it involves a teenage driver it’s especially devastating,” said Transportation Secretary Greg Slater. “As parents, we can instill safe and responsible behaviors in drivers when they’re young by discussion – and by example. It’s an investment that will benefit them throughout their lives, and will help keep everyone safe on our roadways.”
MDOT MVA and NHTSA offer several topics of discussion for teen drivers, including:
- Impaired Driving. Teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol. However, nationally, 16% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 had alcohol in their system. Alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep a teen from driving safely. Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Driving is a complex task, and marijuana slows reaction time, affecting a driver’s ability. Teens must remember that driving under the influence of any impairing substance — including illicit or prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication — could have deadly consequences.
- Seat Belt Safety. Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. Too many teens, however, simply aren’t buckling up. In 2018, almost half (45%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers who died in crashes were unbuckled. Even more troubling, when a teen driver involved in a fatal crash was unbuckled, nine out of 10 of the passengers who died were also unbuckled. Remind your teen that it’s important that everyone in the car is buckled up, front seat and back – every trip, every time, no matter what.
- Distracted Driving. Cell phone use while driving is more than just risky — it can be deadly, and is illegal in Maryland. Remind your teen about the dangers of texting and using a phone while driving. Distracted driving isn’t limited to cell phone use. Eating or drinking while driving and attention to passengers, audio and climate controls can result in distractions. In 2018, among teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes, 10% were reported as being distracted at the time of the crash. Remind your teen that wearing headphones while driving is illegal in Maryland, and can distract from hearing sirens, horns or other important sounds.
- Speed Limits: Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially teens. In 2018, more than one-quarter (28%) of all teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, and males were more likely to be involved in fatal speeding-related crashes than females. Remind your teen to always drive within the speed limit.
- Passengers. Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up dramatically in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.
As emphasized in the new MDOT MVA Be the Driver campaign, every driver, rider and pedestrian has a personal responsibility to follow the rules of the road to ensure safety on Maryland roadways. While parents play an important role in helping teen drivers take smart steps to stay safe on the road, it is ultimately up to the driver to make the right decisions behind the wheel. National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great time to remind new drivers that staying safe requires safe practices.
All new drivers obtaining a driver’s license are reminded that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MDOT MVA recently announced a temporary modification to the non-commercial driving skills test in consideration of the safety of all. Applicants will be tested on several components on an MDOT MVA course including: vehicle inspection, pull-in parking, three-point turn and back-in parking. In an effort to promote social distancing, the driver’s license testing agent will score the test from outside of the car. There will be no road test portion, however these maneuvers fulfill all safety requirements.
To schedule an appointment to take the driver’s skills test, visit the MDOT MVA Central Scheduling System.
By following the rules of the road and engaging in safe driving behavior, drivers of all ages will keep themselves, passengers and others on the road safe. Learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office at ZeroDeathsMD.gov or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @ZeroDeathsMD.