Teen Safety Driving Program

Image via Flickr by State Farm

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. The most dangerous time is during the first 12 months of driving, and most teen accidents are due to inexperience. Most states’ teen driving restrictions and safety programs don’t adequately prepare or protect teen drivers from common crash risks. However, the state of New Hampshire is taking steps to better help prepare teens for the road.

The Teens & Trucks Program

Authorities in New Hampshire report that up to 80 percent of fatal crashes with commercial vehicles are due to the fault of passenger car drivers. Realizing the need to educate teens about preventing commercial vehicles crashes, the state initiated the Teens & Trucks program in 2012. In the program, teens learn about a truck’s blind spots, wide turns and stopping distance requirements. It’s a hands-on learning program where teens actually get to sit in a commercial vehicle to experience things from the truck driver’s view. The program is funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and has been added as a module to driver education classes in the state of New Hampshire.

Other Strategies in Place for N.H. Adolescent Drivers

According to the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicle Fatal Accident Reporting System, driver 16 and 17 years of age are involved in 18 percent of total crashes. The goal is to reduce teen age fatalities and injuries to zero. In addition to the Teen & Trucks program, the state has other ongoing strategies to get to zero car crashes, including increased parental involvement, enforcement of the primary seatbelt law, increased awareness of unsafe driving behavior like texting, and updated driver education instructors’ competencies.

The Effectiveness of Adding the Teens & Trucks Program to Teen Driving Instruction

Because the Teens & Trucks program was just added in 2012, there are no statistics to date to measure its impact or effectiveness on teen crashes. However, the New Hampshire State Police are hopeful that it will have an impact in reducing teen crashes. Many also feel that the program is scalable and would be an ideal module to add to other states’ teen driving program. Being aware of the differences between large trucks and buses compared to passenger vehicles is a step in the right direction for all states.

What Can Other States Learn From the Teens & Trucks Program?

The Teens & Trucks program in New Hampshire reflects the state’s philosophy that teen traffic crashes are preventable with the right education, and are by no means inevitable. Eliminating teen deaths on New Hampshire roadways has become a focused concern of both state agencies and communities.  The state’s mission is to create a safety culture through the implementation of driver education, and to integrate innovative programs like Teens & Trucks into driving curricula. It would serve other states well to adopt New Hampshire’s teenage driving model. It’s a comprehensive, systematic, and proactive approach for teen safety that all regions should embrace.