Attorney General Press Release Header
October 21, 2013
State Officials, Safety Advocates, Students
Mark National Teen Driver Safety Week 2013
Passengers Also Have Responsibility to Prevent Crashes
Making sure teen drivers are safe drivers is the focus of National Teen Driver Safety week in Connecticut, but communities, parents and teens need to be reminded that vehicle passengers are also responsible for keeping crashes from happening and avoiding injury.

Connecticut crash data shows that for 16 to 19 year-olds from August of 2008 through 2011 about 6,000 passengers were injured and 61 passengers and teen drivers were killed.  Although Connecticut has strong teen driving laws - among the strongest in the nation - teen drivers and many passengers continue to die most often because safety was ignored.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy said, “The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that nearly two of every three people killed in teen driver crashes are people other than the teen driver. We all have to be part of the solution to prevent these needless tragedies and ensure teen drivers build up the skills, judgment, and experience necessary to make the right decisions when they get behind the wheel. I’m speaking to young people in particular because, many times, teens are more effective in getting a message across to their peers than even law enforcement officers, parents and educators.”

“We launched this campaign to reach out to Connecticut’s youngest and most inexperienced drivers early-on to show how safe driving will save their lives and the lives of their passengers, and make our roads safer for all who use them,” the Governor said.

Attorney General George Jepsen, who is teaching his teenage son to drive, said passenger behavior is critical to safety.

“Parents in the passenger seat need to show, not just tell, teen drivers that safety is the number one rule of the road. We need to demonstrate that fact by always wearing a seatbelt, by turning off our cellphones and by helping our young drivers stay focused on the road and potential travel hazards. Safe driving practices should be a habit they learn for a lifetime,” the Attorney General said.

DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey pointed out, "While this week points to teen drivers, we need to remember that many passengers are injured and even killed in crashes in which a teen driver was at the wheel. Our next step is to focus efforts on passenger safety and education."

Attorney General Jepsen, Commissioner Currey, students from DMV Teen Advisory Committee and other safety advocates met today with Mercy High School Students to discuss teen safe driving and remind them how a focus on safety can save their lives.

Since the state revamped and strengthened its graduated driver licensing laws in August 2008, the focus has been on teen drivers. In the last five months nine teens 15 to 18 were killed in crashes and most of the deaths were passengers.

Passengers should recognize that they are "not just along for the ride" and could find it a deadly trip if they do not take action to protect themselves. The responsibility of the passenger includes: 
•    Respecting the law and not riding in a car with a teen driver under the passenger restrictions.
•    If you are a passenger, protect yourself by always wearing your seatbelt.
•    Don't distract the driver with loud conversations, music or cell phone chatter.
•    Don't get in the car if the driver has been drinking.
•    Encourage the driver to obey posted speed limits.
•    Get out of the vehicle if there's any sense that recklessness and unsafe operation of the car is happening. Call for help before staying in a car that leads to your fatality.
Parents, along with schools, police departments, health care providers, community organizations, state government agencies, can lead in helping teens become aware of the consequences of their choices when choosing to ride with someone or stay in a vehicle being operated unsafely. 

Here are some suggestions for addressing this issue:
•    Parents need to know who is driving their teen as well as their training experience.
•    Parents need to continuously monitor and guide their teenagers driving activity, and limit their travel to purposeful driving. 
•    Communities and high schools should consider having a voluntary vehicle decal program that identifies novice drivers, and helps police identify vehicles that should not have passengers.
•    Parents must be aware that driver's education must always be coupled with many hours of on-the-road training at home.
•    Pediatricians, family physicians and other health care professionals need to stress both driver and passenger safety during wellness visits and encourage the use of parent teen driving contracts that set the driving rules and consequences for violations in advance.
•    Police need to continue to enforce Connecticut's teen-driving laws and develop passenger education programs through their school resource officer programs.
"The more communities and parents raise awareness of total safety in the car -- responsibilities of drivers as well as passengers -- we will make even greater strides with our objective of reducing crashes, injuries and deaths in the vehicles driven by teens," said DMV Commissioner Currey.

The following are comments from DMV's teen advisors:

Allie Caselli, junior, Nonnewaug High School, Woodbury
"Safe driving is growing increasingly important in our lives today. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes in car accidents, and teenagers, being less experienced, have an even higher rate. When you're behind the wheel it's important to remember it only takes a second with your eyes off the road and you may cause an accident. No matter how important you think answering a call or text message may be remember it can wait. If you are the passenger in a car you don't feel safe remind the driver that they have both your lives in their hands and to drive safely. It only takes a few words to save a life."

Stephanie Lewis, junior, Nonnewaug High School, Woodbury
Teens are new drivers and therefore inexperienced ones. They need to be extra cautious while driving in order to stay safe. Passengers riding with teen drivers need to step in and say something if they see the driver doing something they shouldn't be. A simple "hey, you should stop texting" or "slow down" could save a life.

Katie Cimini, senior, Mercy High School, Middletown
"Teen safe driving includes and affects not only the driver, but the passengers in the car as well. Both the driver and passenger have responsibilities to keep not only themselves but others safe as well. It is viable for passengers to promote and enforce safe driving habits to the teen drivers."

Hannah McCollam, junior, Nonnewaug High School, Woodbury
"Teen drivers need to be responsible behind the wheel to ensure their safety, their passengers' safety, and the safety of the other people on the road. Making sure to refrain from getting distracted while driving, remembering the rules of the road, and being a responsible driver are all great, easy ways to stay safe. The passengers can also help the driver stay safe by avoiding distracting the driver and reminding the driver to stay focused behind the wheel. The safety of both the driver and passenger is incredibly important, and following the simple tips above can help save a life, or multiple lives."

Ama Appiah, junior, Mercy High School, Middletown
"Safe driving is like a two way street - both the driver and their passengers/peers to work together to practice safe driving habits. Sharing ideas on how to be more careful on the roads can be effective when developing good habits. Having a role model from a driver's peers can also be helpful. A driver and his/her passengers should both share the responsibility of helping to make the roads safer for everyone."
Media Contacts:
Office of the Attorney General:
Jaclyn M. Falkowski
860-808-5324 (office)
860-655-3903 (cell)
Department of Motor Vehicles:
Bill Seymour
860-263-5020 (office)
Consumer Inquiries:
Twitter: @AGJepsen