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Coalitions Find the Keys to Safer Teen Driving

The Short of It

Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens and half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before graduating high school, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). But states with a Teen Safe Driving Coalition have lowered the number of car crashes involving young drivers by 34 percent.

The Lowdown

Established by the NSC and The Allstate Foundation, Teen Safe Driving Coalitions have worked at the grassroots level to educate parents and kids about the risks of teen driving and offer solutions for parents to help teens be safer. Comprised of state and local government, law enforcement, public health agencies, traffic safety and injury prevention organizations, academia, businesses, teens, parents and crash survivors, the coalitions exist in California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

In states with the coalitions, the number of crashes involving 15- to 17- year-old drivers has dropped nearly 34 percent since the coalitions were established four years ago. Non-coalition states, however, have only experienced a 19.5 percent drop, according to NSC analysis of federal fatality data.

The coalitions' success can be attributed in part to the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program, which has reduced teen drivers' crash risk by 20 to 40 percent. It works by focusing on new drivers slowly gaining experience driving with less exposure to high-risk scenarios, such as nighttime driving and carrying teen passengers. All 50 states and D.C. have some form of GDL.

"Remember, it's not whether teens are 'good kids' or 'responsible.' New drivers share one thing in common—lack of experience," says Kathy Bernstein, senior manager of teen driving initiatives, NSC. "The more practice driving teens get, the better."

The Upshot

For parents who live in states where the Teen Safe Driving Coalitions don't exist, they can still take part in keeping their kids safe.

"As the No. 1 resource when it comes to teaching teens to drive, parents should stay involved well after teens get their licenses," says Bernstein.

She suggests that parents should:

  • Ride with teens a minimum of 30 minutes weekly, even after they receive their license, to ensure they're using safe driving skills.
  • Talk with teens about managing distractions, such as phones, the radio, other passengers, and roadside scenery.
  • Give teens extra opportunities to learn nighttime driving skills with an adult supervisor in the car.
  • Practice safe habits themselves.
  • Visit the Drive it Home site for resources, such as the New Driver Deal, a contract that parents and teens can create together that outlines household driving rules and the consequences for breaking them.

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