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Connecticut’s teen driving laws save lives

The fourth anniversary this month of Connecticut’s start of tougher teen driving laws shows the measures continue to put in check teen driver deaths.

The new laws, which in 2008 brought increased restrictions, tougher training requirements and expensive penalties for violations, are credited for a steady stream downward in 16 and 17-year-old drivers’ deaths.

In the last two years, the number of teen drivers killed in crashes fell dramatically from a high of seven in 2007 the year before the new laws started to one for last year.

“I think these laws continue to show Connecticut’s forward-looking approaches to positive results in protecting the youngest and most inexperienced of our drivers,” said DMV Commissioner Melody Currey.

A series of high-profile crashes in 2007 triggered a campaign that a year later brought new laws with longer periods of passenger restrictions, an 11 p.m. curfew time, stiffer penalties for violations, extended training requirements and a mandated parent-teen information session about safe driving.

Transportation study researchers in Trumbull, Preusser Research Group, have also found that Connecticut has seen a strong reduction above the national average for teen driver crashes. Comparing crashes before and after the passage of new laws, Preusser found a 34 percent reduction in 16- and 17-year-olds’ crashes in Connecticut compared to a 26-percent national average.

A group of teens working with the DMV on designing its 2013 teen safe driving video contest said the laws have raised awareness among their friends.

  • “These laws governing teen safe driving have proven to be very successful and awareness is much more evident,” said Michael Brainerd, 16, of East Haven.
  • “The teen safe driving laws have resulted in fewer fatalities and continued commitment will only increase safety and the well-being of teens,” said Luke Edwards, 16, of Madison.
  • “Teens have become safer drivers as have their friends and family. The message continues to spread,” said Juhi Gupta, 16, of Rocky Hill.
  • “Teens think twice before engaging in reckless acts of driving,” said Patrick Kudej, 16, of Norwich and first place winner in the 2012 DMV teen safe driving video contest (youtu.be/aBQt_GBt_ZI).”
  • “It is encouraging to know that the state has my back. If the laws weren’t there, teens wouldn’t take the precautions,” said Daniyal N. Khan, 17, of Berlin.

Motor vehicle crashes are the top national killer of teenagers. States across the country have begun to enact special laws designed to protect this young group of drivers. Preventing teen crashes have also become a public health issue championed by doctors and other health professionals.

Dr. David Shapiro, trauma surgeon at St. Francis Medical Center in Hartford, is working with DMV and the teens to help promote its contest and awareness about safe driving.

“A significant drop in teen traffic fatalities demonstrates that not only has legislation made an impressive impact but it appears that the teens, their peers and their parents are taking an active role by abiding by the laws to improve their safety behind the wheel. This all started with institution of the laws and those affected by the law responded to it,” he said.

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