While most people might not realize it, Maryland has shown an incredibly strong commitment to keeping teen drivers safe behind the wheel. Indeed, the Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Administration routinely teams up with groups like the Maryland Teen Driver Safety Coalition to conduct public awareness campaigns and promote model safety programs.
Furthermore, the state's graduated licensing system, referred to as the Rookie Driver Program, subjects new drivers to requirements that, while stringent, nevertheless enable them to secure the necessary experience in a safe environment. To illustrate, new drivers are subject to everything from driving curfews and passenger limitations to minimum license holding periods (with no traffic citations) and a ban on both talking and texting.
As commendable as this is, recent figures show that perhaps more needs to be done to keep our state's teen drivers safe. To illustrate, consider that the number of driving deaths among Maryland teens rose by 75 percent in 2015, when 21 drivers between 16-20 years of age lost their lives on the roads and highways.
In recognition of this sobering reality and as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs all next week, MVA officials will be distributing literature targeting five problem behaviors behind the wheel to all newly licensed teen drivers as part of a campaign called "5 to Drive."
These five behaviors behind the wheel that can elevate the risk of fatal accidents among teen drivers, include:
- Distracted driving: Keep smartphones off or out of reach while driving, as looking away from the road for a mere five seconds at 55 miles-per-hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
- Speeding: Always drive at or below the posted speed limit, as 40 percent of teen drivers in the state who died in motor vehicle accidents were speeding.
- Impaired Driving: Never operate a motor vehicle after consuming any alcohol, as 11 percent of teen drivers in the state who died in motor vehicle accidents were driving while impaired.
- Passengers: Absent having a parent in the car, teens are actually safer without passengers, as having just one friend present doubles the risk of a fatal crash.
- Seat belts: Always wear a seat belt no matter the distance traveled, as 24 percent of teen drivers in the state who died in motor vehicle accidents failed to buckle up.
Here's hoping that the campaign proves effective and that we see a reversal in this tragic trend.
If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident caused by the reckless actions of another, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can explain the law, outline your options and fight to protect your rights.