According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 4,054 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2008. To raise awareness about the issue, as well as highlight law enforcement and educational activities, state highway safety agencies will be drawing attention to the risks faced by young drivers.
Michigan, Minnesota and California, for example, will focus on risks associated with texting and cell phone use. Iowa, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri are among the states that will focus on teen seat belt use both with educational and law enforcement components.
The most important action to reduce teen driving deaths is strengthening state graduated licensing laws, GHSA said. Forty-nine states now have some form of three-tiered graduated licensing system that is recommended by GHSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and other experts. Based on the IIHS rating system, no state in 1996 had a law rated as "good." Today, 34 states and D.C. are rated as "good." Nine are "fair," seven are "marginal," and no states are "poor." As part of NTDSW, Indiana and Maryland will remind teens and parents about new, stricter laws now in effect in those states.
On the national level, GHSA and Ford Motor Company Fund continue working with state highway safety agencies on the Ford Driving Skills for Life Program. Teen training and related events have recently been held or will be held in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
Finally, GHSA is joining with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to announce the 2009 Operation Safe Driver campaign, which focuses on reducing unsafe driving behavior by trucks, buses and passenger vehicles. This year, the program will focus on teaching teens about the risks of dangerous driving behavior and the how to safely share the road with commercial vehicles. A new "Teens and Trucks" training course has been developed by federal and state agencies and will be offered to schools.
A sampling of state activities for NTDSW, as well as state laws and related resources, is available at http://www.ghsa.org/html/projects/ntdsw/2009.html.