Staff Report

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, ahead of all other types of injury, disease, or violence.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nationwide in 2015, 1,972 drivers age 15-18 were involved in fatal collisions. In 2015, in California, 283 teens were behind the wheel at the time of fatal collisions, and 63 percent of those young drivers were at fault.

Teen Driver Safety Week in October promotes parents focusing attention on setting rules for their teen drivers before allowing them to get behind the wheel. Parents and guardians must set firm driving rules to shape their teen’s driving behavior, officials emphasized.

Inexperience is one of the leading causes of teen collisions. The most important thing a parent can do for a new teen driver is to stay involved in his or her driving life.

Deputies recommend taking frequent drives with newly licensed teens to monitor their progress. Parents can help reduce the dangerous and sometimes deadly behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, driving without seat belts, speeding, carrying extra passengers, and driving distracted.

“Cell phone use continues to be a serious and often deadly distraction for all drivers, but it’s a significant problem among young, inexperienced drivers,” said Rhonda Craft, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety.  “If you’re a parent, guardian, or mentor to a teen driver, lead by example and encourage them to put the phone down and focus on the road.”

Programs for teen drivers and their families include:

  • Start Smart, conducted by law enforcement personnel, is a driver safety education class that targets new and future licensed drivers between the ages of 15-19 and their parents and guardians.The CHP has released a mobile app for Start Smart, designed to assist young people through the process of obtaining their California driver’s license.  The app includes a step-by-step guide covering everything from the Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Handbook and the final steps for obtaining a provisional license, to ultimately achieving an unrestricted license.
  • Every 15 Minutes focuses on high school juniors and seniors, challenging them to think about drinking, driving, personal safety, the responsibility of making mature decisions, and the impact their decisions have on family, friends, and many others.
  • Impact Teen Drivers, a nonprofit organization partnered with CHP, is dedicated to saving lives through evidence-based educational programs that support good decision-making strategies behind the wheel.
  • California Friday Night Live Partnership, working with high schools and middle schools to educate teens about traffic safety and impaired driving awareness, includes town hall meetings, prom-related campaigns, and parent awareness programming.
  • The Power to Youth and the Power of Parents, MADD’s multi-sensory high school assembly education program, highlights the dangers of teen impaired driver.
  • Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) brings awareness of the human toll caused by alcohol related crashes to high school and middle school programs.