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Resources for
Teen Drivers

BY DAVID J. SWARTS,
Commissioner, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among young people ages 16-24. In New York State, young drivers account for only 12 percent of all drivers, yet they constitute 20 percent of drivers involved in crashes.

The most dangerous time for young drivers is during the first six months of licensed driving when they are inexperienced and have not yet adequately developed key driving skills and habits such as: driving attention, visual search strategies, speed relative to conditions, hazard recognition and emergency maneuvers.

This issue is deeply personal to me. The day before my senior year in high school began, my close friend and classmate was killed in a car crash. The tragedy of losing someone so young and full of potential in a way that was completely preventable has stayed with me my entire life and is one of the reasons the safety of younger drivers is a key priority for me and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In light of this data and with my personal experience in mind, I created the DMV’s Office for the Younger Driver in 2008. Since that time, the office has been involved in various activities to help make young drivers safer, as well as providing resources that are useful to both young drivers and their parents.

Parental involvement is vital to teens making smart choices while driving. In fact, 89 percent of teens say their parents are most influential in encouraging safe driving. Fifty percent of teens are less likely to be in a crash if their parents set rules and monitor their activities.

A new program that the Office for the Younger Driver is offering to help parents in their driver education role is the Teen Electronic Event Notification Service (TEENS). TEENS is a voluntary, free service provided by the Department that notifies the parent or guardian of a minor, under the age of 18, in the event that a ticket, conviction, suspension, revocation, or accident appears on the minor’s driver license record. Parents or guardians can apply by mail, on the DMV web site, or in an office when the minor is applying for his or her original permit or non-driver ID.

Another project we are hoping will make a difference is the recent release of four teen driver safety videos known as the “iDriveSmart” videos which are featured both on the DMV’s Younger Driver web site and on YouTube.

As a former teacher, I understand the importance of reaching teens in ways that have meaning to them. We have attempted to present this critical topic in an entertaining and educational way. These videos are one more component in our attempt to reach our youngest motorists during that vital period when driving is new to them.

Filmed at Shaker High School in Latham, NY this past summer, the videos feature teens talking about safe driving choices and demonstrating safe driving behaviors. They focus on the topics of speed, distracted driving, inexperience and the importance of wearing a seat belt. There is also a video directed to parents of young drivers. In it, a father describes the painful loss of his daughter in a 2001 car crash. Driver distraction and inexperience were factors in the crash.

The “iDriveSmart” videos, information on TEENS and additional resources are available at www.dmv.ny.gov/youngerdriver. I hope that young drivers and parents both will take advantage of these resources to ensure the continued safety of our most inexperienced drivers.

David J. Swarts is the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.

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