ODOT release – SALEM – The spotlight is on teenaged drivers Oct. 17 – 23 for National Teen Driver Safety Week… or is it? “My advice for parents is to be very patient with young drivers due to their lack of driving experience,” said Igor Kusznirczuk, a driver examiner at Florence’s DMV field office. “Parents should not be overconfident that their child will pass without any problems; the added pressure on young drivers makes them even more nervous and uncomfortable with the test experience.” Teen drivers are often anxious about learning to drive and passing the test; after all, it’s a huge responsibility to be a safe driver – the consequences of not being so can be life-altering. That’s why drive test examiners say it’s important for parents and young drivers to relax and focus on the task at hand. “Some teens are calm with conversation, and that helps them stay relaxed and attentive, while others prefer complete silence,” said Kimberly Saddler, a DMV drive test examiner at the North Salem field office. “Both situations have presented unique opportunities in that you as the examiner or the parent must be aware of what will help the teen driver stay relaxed, attentive and aware while on the road with others.” What else can I do?
Fortunately, DMV has great material to help those learning to drive and those who are helping them! “I recommend that parents review ‘The Oregon Parent Guide to Teen Driving’ booklet and that teens read the ‘What to Expect from your Drive Test’ pamphlet,” said Aster Correia, transportation service representative in DMV’s Baker City field office. “Unfortunately, we have seen many teens fail in the office based off the information they studied incorrectly on a phone app or the wrong site online.” Reviewing the right material, such as the Oregon Driver Manual; having parental involvement in training; and enrolling in an ODOT-approved driver education program are three key elements of success for teen drivers. “These steps are a great way to instill life-long safe driving behaviors in students,” said Jody Raska, ODOT Driver Education Program manager. Important things to consider
The greatest dangers for teen drivers include driving impaired and/or distracted, speeding and not always wearing a seat belt. Role-model the behavior you support, and remind your teens how much you care by insisting they obey the rules of the road, including not using the phone at all when behind the wheel. Across the country, young drivers show up in large numbers when it comes to fatal and serious injury crashes. In one year alone (2019) in the U.S., 2,042 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers (age 15 – 18), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For that same year, NHTSA data also indicates: 45% of teen drivers who died in crashes were unbuckled. 27% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. 16% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. “Speed, impairment, lack of seat belt use and distraction continue to be the leading causes of teen crashes,” Raska said. “It’s best if we can start off creating good habits when drivers are young.” In Oregon from 2014- 2018, young drivers (age 15 – 20), were involved in 14.2% of fatal and serious injury crashes — that breaks down to a tragic 221 fatal crashes and 1,129 serious injury crashes. This group makes up the second highest proportion of drivers involved in those crashes behind aging drivers (age 65+) and on par with motorcyclists. How can we help young drivers? Approved, formal driver education saves lives. ODOT has educational information online for parents and young drivers (Why Drive with Ed?), including a list of approved driver education providers. Training and practice will help young drivers avoid some common errors. According to Kusznirczuk, Saddler and Correia, young drivers often lack depth in the ability to observe their surroundings. Not checking blind spots thoroughly, seeing only the traffic that’s close by, and even going straight through stop signs are behaviors not uncommon during drive tests. Ready to talk with your teen about driving? NHTSA offers tips on how to discuss common driver-related issues. If you’re waiting for a good time to have this important discussion, National Teen Driver Safety Week is here, parents and guardians, so go for it!