Safer teen driving

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the implementation of tougher teen driving laws in Connecticut and the results are encouraging. The laws added new license restrictions for fledgling teen drivers, including a prohibition on carrying passengers to prevent the distraction a car full of friends can create. Also added was an 11 p.m. curfew, more rigorous training requirements, increased parental involvement, and tougher penalties for violations.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles reports that 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. The year 2011 saw one fatality.

While Connecticut was among the leaders in passing reform laws for teen drivers, an increasing number of states are following suit with similar legislation. Over the last few years, as the laws have taken root, there has been a 26 percent reduction in teen-driver accidents nationally. The drop in Connecticut is more impressive, 34 percent, according to the Preusser Research Group.

The Day takes pride in having been a strong editorial advocate for enactment of the new teen driving laws. While some initially saw the restrictions as unfair and overly burdensome, young aspiring drivers and their parents now accept them as the new norm.

Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes remain the top national killer of teenagers, but the trends are moving in the right direction, as special laws designed to protect young drivers become the standard.

Dr. David Shapiro, a trauma surgeon at St. Francis Medical Center in Hartford, worked with lawmakers to enact the restrictions and continues to promote awareness of them. Most encouraging, he notes, is the level of compliance with the new rules.

"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.

This is evidence that good public policy can make a difference.

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