Teen motorists urged to be responsible

Published 4:29 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

As National Teen Driver Safety Week gets underway, Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran and Virginia State Police (VSP) are encouraging young people, who are just taking to the roads, to take charge of their safety.

“Every driver has a responsibility to be safe when they are getting on the road, including our newest drivers,” said Governor Northam. “National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great opportunity to engrain safe driving habits that will stay with our teenagers for the rest of their lives.”

As of Oct. 1, preliminary data in Virginia shows there have been 56 fatalities in crashes involving teen drivers, marking a 36 percent increase over 2017. Of those traffic deaths, 28 individuals were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

“Sadly, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teenagers nationwide, yet this loss of young people’s lives is preventable,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Starting a conversation with teens about safety and responsibility on the road is the first step toward reducing fatalities. We as parents, mentors and friends need to equip the next generation of drivers with the tools they need to navigate the highway tomorrow by encouraging them to practice safe habits today.”

Among the most significant dangers to teenage drivers are alcohol consumption, lack of seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and driving with passengers in the vehicle.

As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, VSP joins Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) in encouraging youth and teens to make good choices and celebrate responsibly as part of its statewide Halloween Safety Campaign. This week, schools and youth groups across the Commonwealth are participating in the peer-to-peer campaign in an effort to prevent tragedies on what is supposed to be a fun night for all.

Irresponsible driving behaviors such as underage drinking and driving as well as texting and driving can be even more deadly on Halloween night when young children are out trick-or-treating on neighborhood streets. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 168 drunk-driving fatalities on Halloween Night. Approximately 44 percent of all fatalities on Halloween Night (6 p.m. Oct. 31 – 5:59 a.m. Nov. 1) were in crashes involving a drunken driver.

Before getting behind the wheel, teen drivers are urged to limit the distractions in their vehicle, including human ones. Not only does the risk of a fatal crash increase in direct relation to the number of teen passengers in the vehicle, but the likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples. Approximately 10 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were distracted at the time of the crash.

“As a father of two teenagers, teaching responsibility on our roadways is of the utmost importance given the rise of distracted driving,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Emphasizing road safety as a vital part of our overall public safety efforts will continue to be a top priority moving forward.”