October 22, 2013
Concord, NH - The Injury Prevention Program at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is joining with the New Hampshire Driving Toward Zero Coalition, the Injury Prevention Center at Dartmouth, and other highway safety advocates to raise awareness about the importance of safe driving choices during National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 20–26, 2013. This is the seventh year of the campaign and this year’s theme is the importance of parental involvement in the driving-related learning experience for teens. A safe experience for the novice teen driver requires parents and teens to share their thoughts and expectations about the learning experience.
“Keeping our teens safe is paramount,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of DHHS’s Division of Public Health Services. “In 2011, 1,038 sixteen-year-old drivers were involved in motor vehicle crashes in New Hampshire. That represents 1 out of 7 licensed sixteen-year-old drivers.”
Howard Hedegard, the Highway Safety Specialist at Dartmouth’s Injury Prevention Center states, “The crash rate decreases with time because time represents the opportunity for novice drivers to obtain more experience and to accept increasing driving related responsibilities.” He encourages parents to create a “graduated licensing” program for their teens.
A graduated licensing program enables new teen drivers to gradually obtain experience as they mature and develop on-the-road skills. Examples include only driving alone or with a parent for the first six months after obtaining a license, not driving after dark, or placing the cell phone in the back seat while driving. Steve Gratton, a member of New Hampshire’s Teen Driver Committee, states that although the driving experience for teens has proven to be the safest when strong graduated licensing laws are in place, graduated licensing best practice really begins at home. “The more the parent or an adult licensed driver is involved in the learning process of the teen driver the safer that driving experience will be,” said Gratton.
Driving is the number one health risk for teens. It is the leading cause of death and life changing injury for teens. The graduated learning experience in which the parent is involved can and does reduce the number of teen crashes and the resulting injuries and death.
Parents should remind their teen that it is the law to buckle up as a driver or a passenger in New Hampshire under the age of 18 and that a youth operator may not operate a motor vehicle with more passengers than there are seat belts in the vehicle. Teens also need to understand that the wearing of the seat belt is the safe and right thing to do even after they turn 18.
Parents should educate their teens about the real risks of driving distracted and set firm limits on the use of electronic devices during their teen’s driving experience and spend additional time driving with their teens during high-risks situations, such as at night or during inclement weather.
Teens should be informed about the provisions of New Hampshire’s Youth Operator license that exists for all licensed drivers between the age of 16 and 20. These provisions state that the holder of a youth operator license who is under the age of 18 shall not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. and that during the first six months after issuance of the license, the holder shall not operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger under 25 years of age who is not a member of the driver's family, unless the teen driver is accompanied by a licensed adult who is at least 25 years of age. The most important thing that a parent can do, however, is to drive in a way that is consistent with how they want their teen to drive.
For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and about highway safety for teens, please visit the following web sites: