Keeping teen drivers alive
Any parent of a new teen driver knows the anxiety caused by handing over the keys-- and for good reason: Teen drivers are involved in fatal and injury crashes at over twice the rate of the general driving population. Teens represent 6.7 percent of the driving population but are drivers involved in more than 13 percent of fatal and serious injury crashes.
Oregon has taken important steps that have significantly reduced teen driver crashes through licensing requirements and driver education. Sixteen and seventeen year olds can qualify to test for a driver license either by completing an ODOT-approved driver education course and practicing driving with an adult for 50 hours, or they may opt out of the course and practice driving with an adult for 100 hours. The provisional driver license they receive restricts the number and age of passengers allowed and the time of day they may drive. The restrictions are in place for one year or until age 18. Oregon and most other states have adopted these provisional or graduated licensing laws because they have been shown to significantly reduce crashes by teen drivers.
ODOT’s Driver Education program is another tool that, combined with provisional driver licensing, has helped greatly reduce fatal and serious injury crashes for teen drivers. From 1998 (the year before these laws were passed) through 2009, the number of teens involved in such crashes declined 62 percent for 16-year olds and 46 percent for 17-year olds. The teens who have taken an ODOT-approved driver education course have significantly out-performed their peers with lower crash rates, lower conviction rates, and lower suspension rates.
But even with the success driver ed has shown in keeping kids safe, two-thirds of teens do not take the education course, instead qualifying to test for a provisional driver license by practicing with parents and others. ODOT partially subsidizes driver education, but for many families, cost and accessibility are barriers to taking the course.
In order to expand the availability of driver education and further reduce teen driver crashes, ODOT is proposing a bill to the 2013 Oregon Legislature that will expand availability and improve driver education. Under the bill, ODOT will provide an additional subsidy to low-income teens so the course will be more financially feasible. The bill would also provide ODOT the ability to give monetary and regulatory incentives for providers to deliver the course in underserved areas of the state, or for ODOT to offer the course itself.
To find a driver education provider—and learn 16 fun reasons why taking the course is a good idea—visit www.whydrivewithed.com.