- A number of automakers are calling attention to issues surrounding young drivers during National Teen Driver Safety Week.
- Kia, Toyota and Ford, for example, are running special Web-based and hands-on programs to help teens build driving skills.
- New data from the AAA Foundation shows that skill level plays a more significant role in vehicle crashes than the age of the driver.
WASHINGTON — During National Teen Driver Safety Week, a number of automakers are finding innovative ways to call attention to issues surrounding young drivers and to help parents keep their teens safe on the road.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that more than 5,000 teens are killed in passenger vehicle crashes annually.
Because of statistics like these, in 2007 the U.S. Congress declared the third week in October to be National Teen Driver Safety Week. Since that time, manufacturers, auto dealers, insurance companies and civic organizations have helped mark the event by increasing awareness of the issues and offering useful suggestions for families.
For example, this year Kia has expanded its partnership with the B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) Teen Pro-Active Driving School, which offers advanced safety training in four-hour sessions at locations throughout the U.S. Parents participate in the course alongside their teens, and professional instructors provide feedback to help reinforce proper driving techniques.
"We've supplied the school with a fleet of new Kia vehicles, and we're expanding our commitment to help scale up this valuable effort," said Michael Sprague, Kia's executive vice president of sales and marketing, in a statement. With traffic accidents still the leading cause of fatalities among teens 14 - 18 years of age, we're determined to help B.R.A.K.E.S. maximize their impact in communities across the country."
During National Teen Driver Safety Week 2014, Toyota is calling attention to its TeenDrive 365 program, which offers a variety of Web-based tools and year-round events to help raise teens' driving skill levels and keep parents up to date on the latest information. Driving tips, statistics, articles and videos are available on the web site, where young drivers can also sign a pledge to drive safely and set a good example on the road.
"At Toyota, we really believe that the most important safety feature in any car is an educated driver — whether you're 16 or 60," said Michael Rouse, vice president of diversity, philanthropy and community affairs for Toyota North America, in a statement.
"That's why we've been committed to offering free education programs, like our Teen Driver Safety Clinics, that bring teens and parents together to learn about ways to be safer behind the wheel."
For this year's National Teen Driver Safety Week, Ford's Driving Skills for Life program has compiled its Top Safety Tips for Teen Drivers and their parents. The list includes such practical advice as using seatbelts, maintaining distance between vehicles, putting away the cell phone and limiting the number of passengers.
Driving Skills for Life is a year-round Ford program that since 2003 has provided free hands-on and Web-based training to young drivers. The curriculum concentrates on what it has identified as the two leading contributors to teen driving fatalities: inexperience and distracted or impaired driving.
Currently a number of states have graduated licensing laws for young drivers, typically those under the age of 17. The idea is to restrict their exposure to risky situations, such as driving at night or with young passengers. The law then gradually phases in more privileges as new drivers gain more experience.
But the AAA Foundation data shows that inexperience plays a significant role in vehicle crashes, regardless of the driver's age.
"Turning 18 does not instantly make someone a safer driver," said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a statement.
"This new research clearly demonstrates how important experience is to safe driving and suggests that graduated driver licensing laws may be beneficial for people that begin driving at an older age."
Edmunds says: Programs like those being run by many automakers give teens and their parents useful tools to help young drivers stay safe behind the wheel.