Young driver safety is a shared responsibility
Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20. Half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before graduating from high school. The stakes are high.
Getting licensed to drive is a milestone in many young people’s lives. Driving is empowering, and with power comes responsibility. We know that when young drivers get behind the wheel, it is up to them to make safe driving choices: to focus on the road and their surroundings, to obey the speed limit and the rules of the road, and to always wear their seat belts. It is up to them to avoid distractions—cell phones, texting, GPS devices.
And while, yes, a young driver who is taking on the task of driving is ultimately responsible for these things, what about parents and caregivers? What about us as safety stakeholders? First and foremost, this is a shared responsibility among the young driver, parents, caregivers, us as driver safety professionals and other role models. Young drivers look to these individuals to guide them toward making safe decisions.
As adults, the example we set is critical. Are we focusing on the road? Are we obeying the speed limit and following the rules? Are we distracted, talking on our phones or entering GPS coordinates? Do we buckle our seat belt every time we get into a vehicle? Are our actions consistent with what we teach?
It makes a difference. Parents who model, monitor and enforce safe driving practices have teens who are less likely to crash and violate the law. Involved parents and caregivers who set high expectations and nurture their young drivers will see that their children are more likely to drive safely than teens with parents who don’t take these measures.
As DMV professionals, young driver safety is a key part of our business. It’s ultimately our responsibility to determine when a young person is ready to take on the responsibility and privilege of driving. Regardless of our safety discipline—whether it’s law enforcement, vehicles or driver licensing—we must be committed to ensuring young drivers and their passengers operate motor vehicles safely and responsibly. We must focus on developing innovative programs that meet young people where they are and support the efforts of young drivers, as well as their parents or caregivers. The AAMVA community must leverage the power of that shared responsibility—our young drivers’ lives depend on it.
2017–2018 AAMVA Chair of the Board