Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of Connecticut’s tougher teen driving laws and state officials say data shows that the new laws are saving teenagers' lives.
The new laws were first passed in 2008 and brought increased restrictions on teen drivers, tougher training requirements and higher penalties for violations. They are credited for a steady downward trend in the number of accident-related deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers, according to officials with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
In the last two years alone, the number of teen drivers killed in crashes fell dramatically from a high of seven motor vehicle deaths in 2007 --- the year before the new laws were implemented --- to just one death 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 on teen driving laws that lead to the new teen driving laws. The measures include restrictions on the number of passengers teen drivers can have in their vehicle, impose an 11 p.m. curfew for teen drivers as well as stiff penalties for violations of the curfew, extend training requirements for teenage drivers and mandate a parent-teen information session about safe driving before a teen can get their license.
Transportation researchers in Trumbull, the Preusser Research Group, determined that Connecticut has seen a significant drop, greater than the national average, for teen driver crashes since the laws were passed, DMV officials said.
The study group found that after Connecticut imposed the new teen driving laws in 2008, the number of car accidents among teenage drivers, chiefly 16- and 17-year-olds, dropped 34 percent in Connecticut compared to a 26 percent decline nationally.
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.
The DMV provided the following quotes from a sampling of teens who worked on the video:
- “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.
- “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 number one cause of death nationally among teenagers, DMV officials said, and states across the country have begun to enact special laws designed to protect young drivers. Preventing teen crashes has 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 the state DMV and teens to help promote safe driving among teenagers.
“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,” Shapiro said.