New efforts at reducing dangerous teen driving habits

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Dangerous driving habits (don't try this at home, kids!)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are responsible for more than one in three deaths among U.S. teens and are the leading cause of death for this age group. The CDC reports that in 2009 alone, eight teens between the ages of 16 and 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. For every mile they drive, teens are also four times more likely to crash than older drivers. As a result of these alarming and serious statistics, the government has begun to implement new requirements for teen drivers.

Common contributing factors

New studies have shown that teens have a tendency to overrate their driving skills and underrate the risks on the road, while also contributing to the bad habit of multitasking by talking to friends, listening to the radio and – most notably – texting. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash 23 times that of drivers who are not distracted while driving.

The prevalence of teen drinking and driving has also contributed to the high number of auto accidents among this age group, especially among male drivers.

New laws, new focus

Law enforcement continues searching for ways to reduce the number of teen crashes, and recently,

the focus has turned to teens driving with other teen passengers or in groups. In 15 states as well as the District of Columbia, teenage drivers may not have any other teenage passengers while driving. And in 43 states (D.C. included), teens are prohibited from driving with more than one teenage passenger.

Stricter curfews have also recently been imposed on teen drivers in various states, with South Carolina forbidding teens to drive past 6 p.m. in winter and 8 p.m. in the summer. In Idaho, a similar law prohibits teen driving from sundown to sunup. Check on the requirements for teen drivers in your state; you may find that the law addresses some of your biggest concerns about your teen’s driving.

Bad grades? No keys

Parents used to be the ones to take away the keys when teens performed poorly in school, but now, in some cases, the government will do it for them. In West Virginia, students with poor attendance or poor grades are unable to obtain a driver’s license until they raise their grade point average and attendance to meet required minimums. Similar laws are also being enforced in various counties across the country, and these efforts may be helpful in promoting responsible driving behavior.

Enforcing safer driving among teens is not only rewarded in the form of lower accident rates, but may also reduce your car insurance rates as well. Insurance companies are working with the government to encourage better driving by offering discounts for students who make good grades, take safe driving courses and have safety features in their vehicles like automatic seat belts and anti-lock brakes. With parents, educators and the government working together, teens may eventually understand why they need to be focused and serious while driving.