PennDOT Reminds Teen Drivers to Avoid Distractions While Driving

HARRISBURG – PennDOT has reminded teen drivers of the deadly consequences of driving while distracted and encouraged parents to talk with young drivers about unsafe driving behaviors.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell has proclaimed Oct. 18-24 as Teen Driver Safety Week to coincide with the national observance.

“Teen drivers lack the experience needed to recognize and react to high-risk conditions and situations on roadways,” said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. “Distractions such as additional passengers in the vehicle, talking or texting on the cell phone, adjusting the radio, and eating while driving only compound the inexperience factor and increase the risk of a crash occurring.”

The 23,059 crashes involving 16- to 19-year-old drivers in Pennsylvania in 2008 resulted in 194 fatalities. Although more than one factor may contribute to a crash, statistics show that driver distractions are major contributors to highway crashes as these behaviors take the teen driver’s full attention away from the driving task. Driver distractions contributed to approximately 10 percent of crashes involving 16- to 19-year-old drivers in 2008.

Additionally, driving too fast for conditions, driver inexperience, and improper or careless turning were also major contributors to highway crashes. In fact, 39 percent of the crashes involving a 16- to 19-year-old driver in 2008 involved at least one of these factors.

The risk of a crash involving any of these factors can be reduced through practice, limiting the number of passengers a teen driver can have in a vehicle, parents setting a good example for the teen driver, obeying all rules of the road and exercising common sense.

With this in mind, PennDOT offers the following safety tips to teen drivers:

•Always wear your seat belt.
•Do not drink and drive; drinking under the age of 21 is illegal.
•Do not talk or text on your cell phone while driving.
•Obey the speed limit; driving too fast gives you less time to react.
•Do not eat or drink while driving.
•Adjust radio and climate controls before beginning your trip, have your passenger adjust the controls for you or adjust the controls when you are stopped.
•Plan ahead; know where you are going and get directions.
•Leave early and give yourself plenty of time to get there.
•Expect the unexpected.

PennDOT also reminds parents that adult supervision is a critical component of keeping teen drivers safe on the roads, as they have the ability to best assess the teen driver’s knowledge, skills and maturity. While this may be a focus when the teen driver has a learner’s permit, this responsibility continues even after the teen driver becomes licensed. Parents should:

•Start talking with your teen about safe driving skills before they turn 16.
•Establish a parent/teen driving contract.
•Limit the number of passengers your teen is allowed to have in their vehicle.
•Limit dawn, dusk and nighttime driving until your teen gathers more experience.
•Enforce a curfew.
•Gradually increase the amount of time/distance your teen is allowed to drive.
•Do not allow your teen to eat or drink while driving.
•Do not allow your teen to talk or text on a cell phone while driving.
•Enforce observance of speed limits and other rules of the road.
•Ride with your teen occasionally to monitor driving skills.

For more information on young driver safety, visit PennDOT’s highway safety Web site, and select the Young Driver link under the Traffic Safety Information Center.

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