Op-ed: Tougher Teen Driving Rules Working
By Brendan Campbell, Sherry Chapman and Bill Seymour
January 26, 2011
From 1997 to 2008, the number of 16- and 17-year-old drivers in
Driver licensure went from 41 percent of 16-year-olds and 60 percent of 17-year-olds in 1998 to 31 percent of 16-year-olds and 48 percent of 17-year-olds in the second year of the tougher laws, which went into effect in August 2008.
But these numbers tell only part of the story about the beneficial effects of the new laws. A state-sponsored survey of parents adds more credibility.
Under the new laws, parents are required to attend a joint two-hour training session with their teen driver seeking a license. It covers a variety of topics related to automobile safety and teen driving laws, and some sessions even offer information on brain development of teens.
Decision-making functions of the teenage brain are not finely tuned until about 25 years of age. Leaving milk on the counter and clothes on the floor is one thing. Driving with a bunch of distracting friends in the car is another matter. Young drivers often don't know when trouble lurks, such as having distractions that can invite disaster. Too many families have learned this lesson the hard way.
The study results released in January 2010 showed that parents reported the course was overwhelmingly beneficial and led them to adopt new safety measures with their young drivers. In the survey, 85 percent of parents reported that the training gave them more information to use in their parenting responsibilities with a teen driver.
We applaud the many state officials and agencies and the General Assembly for their leadership on this issue. We most especially want to credit the many safety advocates, from hospitals and high schools to police and community activists, who continue to spread this message every day.
As a result of the Governor's Task Force on Teen Safe Driving in 2008, public awareness projects — with teens talking to teens about safe driving and the tougher laws — have sprung up in various parts of the state. There's the state Department of Motor Vehicles' Teen Safe Driving Video contest co-sponsored with The Travelers that has drawn more than 500 students' participation statewide. The bereaved parents group, Mourning Parents Act, has made high school presentations to hundreds of classes and community groups. Connecticut Children's
Most important, we thank parents for their stepped-up enforcement of safety rules at home, and teens for taking the responsibility of driving more seriously. This vigilance needs to continue beyond those first years of driving.
Brendan Campbell is a pediatric surgeon at Connecticut Children's