The American Automobile Association (AAA) has called the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day “The 100 Deadliest Days,” when they say crashes involving teen drivers increase 15 percent over the other months of the year.
Highland County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Seaman told The Times-Gazette that in his 20-year tenure in law enforcement, most of the times he’s had to “light up” a teen driver has been for speeding due to inexperience or inattention.
“I’ve found it’s more not really paying attention to the speed limit,” he said. “From time to time, we might handle one with a crash and find there was some kind of distraction involved, but more often than not it’s going a little over the speed limit that gets them in trouble.”
He said another issue where a teen driver and law enforcement cross paths has to do with a traffic device violation such as not stopping for a red light or rolling through a stop sign, which he attributed to a teen driver’s lack of patience and experience on the road.
John Havens is an instructor with the Cruzin Driving School in Washington C.H. He said in his years of teaching, many crashes involving teen drivers are a combination of inexperience and bad habits they’ve picked up from their parents.
“Distracted driving is a major issue today among that age group,” he said. “Nobody can live without their cell phone and their parents are doing the same thing. I mentioned in the car one time about a student doing something wrong and he told me ‘Oh, my Mom does that’ or ‘my Dad texts and drives all the time.’”
He said it’s surprising that students learning to drive acquire so many bad habits from their parents, but advises them that if one of their parents is caught running a stop sign or speeding it can mean a fine and two points on their license. But for a teen, it could mean a six-month to one-year license suspension.
Most of the causes of teen accidents that Havens has seen over the years are due to inexperience and having too many people in the car, which he said only adds to the distraction factor.
In the May/June issue of AAA Motorist, the auto club recommended parents reinforce these six topics:
•Always wear a seat belt. It’s been the law in Ohio since 1986 and has been responsible for an almost 50 percent reduction in serious injury or death.
•Limit distractions, such as texting while driving, which increases the risk of a crash by 23 times.
•Limit teen passengers, another law that became part of the Ohio Revised Code in 2015.
•Restrict night driving. Studies have shown that a teen’s chances of being involved in a fatal crash double when driving at night. Ohio placed restrictions on teen night-time driving under Graduated Driver Licensing laws that took effect in 2007.
•Avoid speeding, which is a significant cause of teen crashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., accounting for one-third of all teen deaths.
•Don’t drink and drive. The legal drinking age in Ohio is 21, but if a teen finds themselves in a potentially impaired driving situation, reassure them that they can call home for a ride.
According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, during the first 12 months a licensed teen driver under the age of 18 may not operate a vehicle from midnight to 6 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
If they have to drive to or from work they must have documentation from their employer, or if they want to drive to or from an official school-sponsored or a religious event they must have the same documentation from the event official.
A newly-licensed teen driver may not operate a vehicle with more than one non-family member as a passenger unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Other restrictions placed on an under 18-year-old driver are the same as required of other drivers in that all passengers must wear safety belts, and the driver can’t use any mobile devices when behind the wheel, including phones.
A conviction of a traffic offense within the first six months of having a license may result in a parent or guardian having to ride with the driver for six months or until the driver reaches the age of 17.
Multiple traffic convictions before the driver’s 18th birthday may result in a license suspension, and for alcohol-related convictions, the driver’s license will be suspended for at least six months.
“Parents still have control over their teenagers as long as they’re living under their roof,” Havens said. “Just because they got their license doesn’t mean they’re good drivers or know as much as everyone else on the road, because all that happened was they showed an examiner they possessed the minimum amount of skill and knowledge to get that license and that’s it.”
He encouraged parents to not shy away from imposing restrictions or even taking their teen’s license away temporarily to reinforce safe behavior on the road.He recalled that when his own son crossed the line in terms of unsafe driving, nothing got his attention more that seeing his license lying on the entertainment center every day and knowing he wasn’t getting it back for a month or so.
“Driving a car is 100-percent concentration,” Havens said. “If you take anything away from that, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.