Making an Impact
February 2021 - Volume 8 - Issue 5
As Traffic Deaths Spike During COVID-19, New Report Examines Unsettling Trend of Teen Drivers Speeding – and Dying – on America’s Roads

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), in partnership with Ford Motor Company Fund, today released a new report that examines the significant role speeding plays in teen driver fatalities and offers practical tools to help parents rein in this lethal driving habit. The new analysis for GHSA found that from 2015 to 2019, teen drivers and passengers (16-19 years of age) accounted for a greater proportion of speeding-related fatalities (43%) than all other age groups (30%). During this five-year period, 4,930 teen drivers and passengers died in speeding-related crashes.

The report, Teens and Speeding: Breaking the Deadly Cycle, is the first look in recent years at the role speeding plays in teen driver deaths and incorporates recently released data that includes state-by-state statistics. It sheds new light on what we know about speeding-related fatal crashes involving teens –- the driver is more likely to be male, have run off the road or rolled the vehicle, and be unbuckled. The data analysis was conducted by Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting.

While the report includes data through 2019, the new analysis of teen driving deaths is timely as overall traffic crashes have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic and speeding on less-crowded than normal roadways is cited by states as a major factor in the surge in motor vehicle deaths. Parents may also have less time to spend training their teen drivers given other priorities during the pandemic.

The GHSA report also notes the risk of a teen driver being involved in a speeding-related fatal crash rises exponentially with each additional passenger in the vehicle. This is a worrying situation as more teens eager to see their friends may drive around together as COVID-19 vaccines become more readily available. These dangerous conditions were unfortunately demonstrated earlier this month, when seven Michigan teens between the ages of 17 and 19 were hospitalized when the teen driver left the roadway and rolled the vehicle. Speed was a factor and the crash happened late at night.

“Our country has a speeding problem that has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Thousands of people die needlessly on our roads because some drivers mistakenly think less traffic means they can speed and nothing bad will happen. The data tell us that teen drivers are the most likely to be tempted to speed, so the need to address this issue is more critical than ever given traffic death trends during the pandemic.”

The GHSA report identifies real-world, practical tools along with technology that parents can leverage to help rein in speeding teens, as well as re-evaluate their own driving behaviors. The latter is critical since speeding is typically passed down from parent to child. Surprisingly, one technology solution is a teen’s cell phone, which parents can use to track speeding, hard braking and other actions via apps. In-vehicle technology, particularly systems that allow parents to limit a vehicle’s top speed, can also help. Other tools discussed in the report include driver education and training, speed enforcement, graduated driver licensing laws, parent-teen orientation sessions and driving agreements, and peer-to-peer programming. All provide opportunities to address teen speeding.

For nearly 20 years, GHSA and Ford Motor Company Fund have worked together to address teen driver safety through the award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program. A signature program of the Ford Fund, Ford Driving Skills for Life has invested more than $60 million to provide free, advanced driver education to more than 1.25 million newly licensed drivers in all 50 U.S. states and 46 countries worldwide since 2003.

“Speed management continues to be a key component of our training and this report reaffirms its importance,” said Jim Graham, Ford Motor Company Fund Manager. “Teens don’t see speeding as a serious problem and parents likely don’t recognize how rampant it is for novice drivers, so teaching them about the impact is critical.”
On Thursday, Feb. 4, GHSA will host a webinar that takes a closer look at the troubling and persistent problem of speeding teens. GHSA Senior Director of External Engagement and nationally recognized teen safe driving expert Pam Shadel Fischer will share the report findings and discuss key recommendations with a panel of teen safe driving advocates.

With students heading back to school, drivers should brush up on basics

SALEM – It’s been a while since many Oregonians have seen school children walking or rolling through the neighborhood or had to stop behind the flashing red lights of a school bus.
With schools around the state going back to in-person sessions, drivers should remember their own ABCs – always be cautious and courteous.

Drivers should take care in their own neighborhoods, by bus stops and in school zones and keep an eye out for children and families. Slowing down and avoiding distractions – cell phones, loud music, even conversations – will help you react more quickly. That’s especially important because children are going back to school while the days are still shorter – and darker.

Keep in mind that children aren’t the best at gauging distance and speed or knowing when it’s safe to cross a street. They’re also, well, kids, so they may dart into the street to catch a bus without checking for traffic.

Here are some things drivers can do to make sure students are safe as they head back to classrooms:

By school zones and in your neighborhood

  • Slow down – A safe speed may be below the posted speed.
  • Drive for conditions – This time of year is often rainy and foggy limiting visibility for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians so keep those headlights on to help others see you. Roads may be icy.
  • Take care backing up – Remember children may be walking to their bus stop or biking to school.
  • Obey traffic rules – They’re there to keep us all safe. That means no U-turns, double parking, stopping in crosswalks or turning on red where not allowed.
  • Yield to pedestrians – At crosswalks, intersections or in the middle of the street.
  • Watch for school buses –
  • Drive with caution and prepare to stop for a school bus when its overhead lights flash yellow.
  • Stop when a school bus’s overhead lights are flashing red, no matter which way you’re traveling. Only proceed once the bus starts moving again and the red lights stop flashing.

At school

  • Obey drop-off and pick-up rules – Park, load and stop only in designated areas. Heed crossing guards.
  • Curb it – Pull to the curb instead of making children cross the street.
  • Be on the lookout – Watch for children, other vehicles and buses.

There’s one more thing drivers should always do – plan ahead. Use alternate routes if possible and give yourself extra time if you plan to drive near a school when students are being picked up or dropped off.

Driver Ed: A Rite of Passage

Learning to drive is a rite of passage. ODOT-approved driver education is proven to dramatically reduce a young driver’s chances of being in a serious crash.

Here's how you can have peace of mind and get the latest information on drivers education resources.

We are always here to help with traffic safety education. We currently have these three images on yard signs available. If you know anyone that would like to have them on display in their community please let us know. We will be glad to ship them to you free of charge.
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