CT is celebrating the fourth anniversary of enacting its tougher teen driving laws and the results are very promising as teen driving deaths continue to decline. These new laws, that went into effect in 2008, brought about more comprehensive driver training requirements, required parent participation in a teen driver educational class, increased restrictions on a teens ability to operate a motor vehicle and created tougher penalties for teen violators of these newly enacted laws.
These new laws are credited with reducing 16 and 17 year old deaths related to driving accidents. In 2007, the year before these tougher and more restrictive laws went into effect, seven CT teen drivers were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Last year, one CT teen was killed in a car crash. Although these results are very positive it can still be argued that one family too many needlessly lost a child.
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one national killer of teenagers in this country. Fortunately there is a national movement to stem the tide of these senseless and often preventable tragedies. States across the country have started to enact special laws aimed at reducing teen accidents and CT is at the forefront of this movement. Preventing teen driving accidents has also become a major public health issue championed by doctors, educators, law enforcement, legislators, bereavement groups, MADD, civic leaders, parents and students.
CT DMV Commissioner, Melody Currey, a staunch advocate of teen driver safety, is actively involved with her staff and a small army of volunteers in working at ways to help educate teens and ultimately reduce teen driving accidents. Commissioner Currey stated, “I think these laws continue to show Connecticut’s forward-looking approaches to positive results in protecting the youngest and most inexperienced of our drivers.” As a result of a large number of high-profile teen driving crashes in 2007 a campaign was undertaken that a year later brought into effect new laws with longer periods of passenger restrictions, an 11 p.m. curfew time, stiffer penalties for violations, extended training requirements and a mandated parent-teen information session about safe driving.
Preusser Research Group located in Trumbull, CT, national researchers in transportation studies, found that Connecticut has seen a greater reduction than the national average for teen driver crashes. When comparing teen motor vehicle accidents before and after the passage of new laws, Preusser found a 34% reduction in 16 and 17-year-olds' crashes in Connecticut compared to a 26% national average.
A group of teens working with the DMV on designing its 2013 teen safe driving video contest said the laws have raised awareness among their friends. Patrick Kudej, 16, of Norwich, who helped in submitting the first place video, http://youtu.be/aBQt_GBt_ZI, in the 2012 CT DMV Teen Safe Driving Video Contest stated, “teens think twice before engaging in reckless acts of driving.”
David Shapiro, M.D. a trauma surgeon at St. Francis Medical Center in Hartford, who is working with the CT DMV and the teens to help promote its video contest and help raise awareness about safe driving stated, “a significant drop in teen traffic fatalities demonstrates that not only has legislation made an impressive impact but it appears that the teens, their peers and their parents are taking an active role by abiding by the laws to improve their safety behind the wheel. This all started with institution of the laws and those affected by the law responded to it.”
Hopefully students in each of our communities will participate in next year’s teen video contest so they can gain awareness and spread the word about safe teen driving. The $5,000 awarded to the first place team’s high school pales in comparison to the value of the life’s that these efforts can literally save.
Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. A graduate of Fordham Law School, he has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of numerous books. He is an outspoken advocate for teen driver safety reform and education and as a result was appointed to DMV Commissioner Melody Currey's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving which is investigating proposed national models for parent and teen education and accident prevention. He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.