March 14, 2013
For more information, contact Sally Ridenour (503) 986-3359 or Shelley Snow (503) 986-3438
En Espanol (pdf)
Traffic crashes are the number one cause of injury and death for 15 to 20 year olds
SALEM – Spring break is this month for most Oregon schools, and hundreds of young people will be heading out on our highways. That means heavier traffic and greater risk, especially if driving is mixed with alcohol, drugs or texting.
“Impaired or distracted driving can lead to tragic consequences,” according to Oregon Department of Transportation Youth Safety Program Manager
Young drivers age 20 and under are involved in crashes at nearly twice the rate of the population as a whole. Drivers age 15 to 20 make up about six percent of the total number of licensed drivers, but are involved in almost 18 percent of crashes.
When a driver’s skill and concentration are impaired due to alcohol, drugs or distractions like texting, the consequences can be deadly.
“Unfortunately, the number of young drivers involved in fatal crashes is up, especially alcohol-involved crashes,” Riehl said. “And the number of young passengers killed in crashes is up as well.”
The good news is that most crashes are preventable. Here are some tips for young people and parents:
- Driving is a serious responsibility. Discuss what it means to be a safe driver with your children and set ground rules for when they're behind the wheel.
- Model safe behavior. Parents and older siblings carry a lot influence. By driving safely and responsibly, you’re setting a good example.
- Never drink or take drugs and drive. Never get into a car with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs.
- Limit the number of passengers riding with young drivers. The presence of passengers increases the crash risk for teen drivers.
- That’s why Oregon’s graduated driver license program limits the number of passengers newly licensed teens can have in the car.
- Since the graduated driver license laws were passed more than a decade ago, Oregon has seen significant decreases in teen driver crashes.
- Put away your phone. Turn it off or put it in the backseat to reduce the temptation to look at it while you drive. Putting away your phone may be an inconvenience, but it's better than the alternative -- being a statistic.
- Buckle up. Every time. Everyone.
Oregon has strict laws about impaired driving and distracted driving. The zero-tolerance law makes it illegal for minors to drink or possess alcohol and drive. In Oregon, drivers under the age of 21 with any perceptible blood-alcohol level are subject to DUII penalties. Under Oregon’s Minor in Possession law (ORS 471.430), people under the age of 21 caught possessing or using alcohol or illegal drugs can lose license privileges for at least one year — even if they don’t have a license yet, and even if they weren’t driving.
Oregon law (ORS 811.507) prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a mobile communication device while driving. Drivers age 18 and older must use a hands-free accessory when using a mobile communication device (though there are some exceptions). Texting is banned for all drivers.
“The laws in Oregon are strict for a reason,” Riehl said. “They are intended to save lives. One young life lost is one too many.”
Additional statistics and resources
- About 21 percent of distracted driving related crashes involved a driver age 15 to 20.
- In the last five years (2007-2011), there were 3,012 distracted driving related crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 20. Of those crashes, 294 were attributed to cell phone use. (Cell phone use and texting are traditionally under-reported.)
- In the last five years (2007-2011), six people were killed in crashes involving a driver age 15 to 20 using a cell phone.
- Number of 15-20 year old drivers in fatal crashes in 2010 was 37. In 2011 it was 35.
- Number of 15-20 year old drivers in alcohol-involved crashes in 2010 was 6. In 2011 it was 8.
- Number of passengers age 15-20 killed in traffic crashes in 2010 was 24. In 2011 it was 26.
Websites with helpful facts about youth impaired driving and distracted driving:
- http://www.thecoolspot.gov/ The Cool Spot is an interactive site where you can learn about being yourself, thinking for yourself and getting the facts about underage drinking.
- http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/ The Center for Disease Control has national statistics, studies and videos about impaired and distracted driving.
- http://www.distraction.gov/ The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website dedicated to ending distracted driving.
- www.friendsdrivesober.org This site includes resources for students and community groups.
- Many insurance companies also offer youth safety resources and programs for their policy holders.