TRENTON – When it comes to teens and driving, the statistics tell the story and illuminate the risks. The leading cause of death among teenagers is car crashes. In the past 10 years, more than 700 young drivers have lost their lives on New Jersey roads and every 10 minutes another teen is involved in a crash.
It’s with those statistics in mind that Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky today are highlighting educational initiatives during “Teen Driver Safety Week” (Oct. 16 to 22) that they believe will empower New Jersey teen drivers to avoid becoming a statistic.
One such program, “Share The Keys”, an evidence-based, data-driven safe driving orientation for parents and teens, was developed by Kean University in partnership with the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. The orientation brings parents and teens together as a joint audience empowering them with information, resources and tools to cultivate safe driving attitudes and behavior.
“Ensuring that parents fully understand the risks and responsibilities associated with driving is essential in preventing tragedies,” Attorney General Dow said. “This educational program is designed to initiate a family dialogue about teen driver safety that might otherwise not have happened. These conversations are vital to instilling teens with good driving behaviors that will hopefully continue with them for life.”
“Share the Keys” is approximately 90 minutes in length and designed for parents and their teens in the pre-permit or permit state of licensure (parents and their teens already holding a probationary license will also benefit). The orientation is presented by trained facilitators in community-based settings (i.e. schools, libraries) and can be linked to classroom driver education programs and back-to-school nights.
“Teen drivers are the next generation of motorists who will share our roads,” Acting Director Poedubicky said. “‘Share the Keys’ helps foster good driving behaviors that they’ll practice for years to come.”
The orientation has five key objectives:
- Understanding the Graduated Driver License (GDL) –The GDL is the most effective tool in reducing teen driver crashes, injuries and deaths. It’s imperative that both parents and teens fully understand the law in order to benefit from its lifesaving restrictions.
- Being a Good Role Model — Researchers have found that teens mimic their parent’s driving behaviors. Parents can effectively reduce their teen’s crash risk by adopting safe driving practices such as obeying the speed limit and avoiding distractions.
- Effectively Enforcing the GDL at Home – Forty percent of all teen fatal crashes occur after 9pm and teens with just one passenger have nearly twice the risk of being involved in a fatal crash than those who drive alone. By enforcing these two restrictions of the GDL parents minimize their teen’s exposure to crash risk.
- Increasing Practice Driving Hours – During the first 12-24 months of driving, teens are at the greatest risk for being involved in a crash. Since crash risk decreases with driving experience, it’s crucial that parents fit in at least one hour per week of practice driving with their teen driver.
- Controlling the Keys — Research by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revealed that teens who requested permission to use the car were half as likely to be involved in crashes when compared to teens that had primary access. Parents can establish a verbal contract with their teens by asking them where they are going, who they are going with and when they will be back.
“Kean University is proud to partner with the Division in the development of this research-driven program,” Kean University Safety Project Director Claudia Knezek said. “This program is designed to significantly improve teen driver safety and save lives,” Knezek said.
With funding from the Division, Kean University also developed the Traffic Safety Learning Progression Component for all students, from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12. The curriculum supports New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for Health and Physical Education and is being piloted in schools throughout the state.
Knezek said that the program is an important companion to “Share the Keys” because it lays an early foundation for teen driver safety.
This initiative introduces age-specific traffic safety tips and practices as a student progresses through their education. For example, third grade students are taught bicycle riding skills and middle school students are introduced to passenger safety issues.
For more information on these programs, including information on how to enroll in a “Share The Keys” orientation or how to become a program facilitator, contact the Division of Highway Traffic Safety at 1-609-633-9300. Further information on teen driver safety can be found at www.njteendriving.com, www.ugotbrains.com, or www.njdrivereducation.com.
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