While any driver can be involved in an accident, teen drivers are particularly risky, which is clearly reflected in crash rates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16- to 19-year-olds are three times as likely to be in a fatal crash as drivers over the age of 20. That increased risk is also reflected in auto insurance rates, which are significantly higher for young drivers. The national average for auto insurance premiums for a 17-year-old male is $7,689.
Securing a driver's license has long been a rite of passage for many teenagers. However, the increase in teen accidents linked to distracted driving is putting a damper on the freedom that comes with driving.
As a response, many states have or are in the process of implementing programs to reduce distracted driving.
The National Safety Council says cellphone usage behind the wheel causes at least 1.6 million crashes per year. Furthermore, 22 percent of fatal car accidents involving distracted teens are the result of cellphone usage, according to the NHTSA. Many states are taking safety into their own hands by limiting drivers' use of cellphones and making them illegal.
Most recently, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a law that makes it illegal for teenagers with a graduated driver's license or permit to use any wireless device during their first six months of driving. Teen drivers who fail to follow protocol may have to pay fines and forgo cellphones for even longer.
This is a new law for Arizona, but other states have similar laws in place for young drivers including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado and Nebraska. And education on the risks of cellphones in distracted driving crashes is increasingly included in teen defensive driving courses which can qualify them for discounts on car insurance and improve their knowledge of how to handle risky situations on the road.
- Graduated Driver's License
Another state-led technique is through graduated licensing programs, which have been directly linked to lower crash rates among teenagers. Graduated licensing programs vary from state to state, but typically they include three stages.
- Supervised driving: New drivers are required to take a test to receive their learner's permit in states such as New York, Kentucky and Delaware. Once they have a permit, they may only drive when an adult accompanies them. Once they meet the driving requirements, they can move on to the next stage.
- Intermediate or junior license: Every new driver must pass a driving test to receive their official license, which allows them to drive without an adult. During this stage, many states, including Idaho and South Carolina, implement curfews, cellphone restrictions or the number of passengers in the car.
- Once drivers reach a certain age, they are granted a new driver's license with no special restrictions.
- Limiting Number of Passengers
While it is common for states with graduated licensing programs to limit the number of passengers in a car, some states are stricter than others. In 2013, Pennsylvania, a state with some of the lowest insurance requirements for teens, passed a law that only allows one nonimmediate family member under the age of 18 in the car with drivers during their first six months of driving.
- Intense Learner's Permit Program
In addition to graduated licensing programs, states have also increased the length of the learner's permit stage requiring them to wait a certain number of months and logging a minimum hour count behind the wheel. For instance, in Maryland, new drivers can apply for their learner's permits three months before they turn 16. Then, they are required to wait nine months before taking the driving exam. During that time, they are expected to log 60 hours of drive time, with at least 10 hours at night.
Outside of laws and mandates, there are additional initiatives to prevent teen crashes, including contests via safe driving apps. Cambridge Mobile Telematics and Teens in the Driver Seat, for instance, launched a competition in April for drivers 15 to 24 years old.
The app tracks teens' driving behavior, offers feedback on their driving skills, and lets them compete for the coveted title of safest driver. The four safest drivers won Amazon Echo Dots, Visa gift cards and virtual reality headsets.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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