Press-Republican

October 29, 2013

Teen drivers at greater risk


Press-Republican

---- — ALBANY — State Police issued 27,895 tickets during a crackdown on distracted driving that began on the Fourth of July holiday weekend and continued through Labor Day.

Infractions very often involved use of cellphones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel, and a special emphasis has been put on young people, according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office.

As of January 2013, New York had 331,000 licensed drivers between the ages of 16 to 19.

“Statistics show that motor-vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of 16- to 24-year-olds, and the majority of crashes occur during the first six months of licensed driving,” the governor said in the release. 

“That is why it is our responsibility as parents and guardians to instill safe driving habits in our teens who are just getting behind the wheel and why New York state recently increased penalties for distracted drivers, with a focus on new drivers. 

“When coupled with inexperience, dangerous practices like texting while driving, speeding or driving under the influence can lead to irreversible and terrible consequences.”

TOUGHER PENALTIES

In July, Cuomo signed legislation to impose the same penalties on drivers with probationary and junior licenses for texting while driving and using a hand-held cellphone that they receive for speeding and reckless driving: 60-day suspensions for first convictions and revocations of 60 days (for junior licenses) or six months (for probationary licenses) for subsequent convictions within six months of the time a license is restored after suspension. 

In June, the number of points charged against an individual’s driving record upon conviction for texting while driving and cellphone-related infractions increased from 3 to 5 for drivers of all ages.

The state also put in place 91 special “Texting Zones” to give motorists a pull-off area to park and use their mobile devices. Signs are visible along the New York State Thruway and state highways to indicate where zones are located.

ALERTS FOR PARENTS

The State Department of Motor Vehicles also helps parents monitor their teens’ driving through the Teen Electronic Event Notification Service. 

TEENS is a voluntary, free service that notifies the parent or guardian of a minor when a conviction, suspension, revocation or accident appears on the teen’s driver’s license record or if the minor receives a ticket. 

Parents can sign up for the service at www.dmv.ny.gov.

According to a recent study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 75 percent of serious crashes involving teens were caused by a critical teen driver error, the release said. 

THREE COMMON ERRORS

The three most common errors — driving too fast for road conditions, being distracted and failing to detect a hazard — accounted for nearly half of all serious crashes.

Parents are advised to offer their teens constructive criticism and teach the following skills:

▶ Speed management: Urge teens to always follow the speed limit. They must also learn to adjust their speed in congested zones and residential areas, during inclement weather and on poorly lit roads.

▶ Recognize and avoid distractions: Limit the number of peer passengers in a vehicle driven by a teen, enforce a no-cellphone or electronic-device rule and lower the radio volume.

▶ Scan for hazards: Observe the surroundings far ahead of the vehicle and side to side, so that there is sufficient time to react and avoid a potential crash.

MODEL FOR TEENS

“Studies have shown that teens with parents who actively monitor their driving behaviors and help them develop safe driving skills are half as likely to crash, 71 percent less likely to drive intoxicated and 30 percent less likely to use a cellphone when driving,” Barbara J. Fiala, DMV commissioner chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, said in the release. 

“These same teens are also 50 percent more likely to buckle up and less inclined to speed.”

For more safe-driving tips and information for teens and their parents, visit the website of the Office for the Younger Driver at dmv.ny.gov/youngerdriver and dmv.ny.gov and www.safeny.ny.gov.