March 08, 2011

Car Crashes Number One Killer Of American Teens - Gillibrand, Bishop, NY Family Announce New National Safety Plan

Gillibrand-Bishop Plan: America Should Follow New York’s Lead, Require Strong Minimum Standards for Teenage Licenses

Washington, DC – With car accidents the number one cause of death among teenagers in America, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Tim Bishop today announced a new national plan to make our roads safer and save lives. Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop are introducing the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STAND UP) Act, legislation to set national standards for states to implement Graduated Drivers License (GDL) programs that prepare teens to be safe, responsible drivers.

More than 280 New Yorkers died in car accidents involving sixteen and seventeen year old drivers from 2005 to 2009, and more than 46,000 were injured.

A new poll shows overwhelming support among America’s teenagers for GDLs. In fact, nearly 75 percent of teens approve of a single, comprehensive law that incorporates the key elements of GDL.

“I have two young boys at home, and like any parent, their safety and well-being means everything to me,” Senator Gillibrand said. “As parents, we know that the day will come when each of our children will get behind the wheel of a car. As a parent and as a lawmaker, I want to make sure we take every reasonable safety precaution to ensure that our teen drivers are safe and well-prepared for the serious responsibility that comes with getting a license. The nation should follow New York’s lead and establish strong minimum requirements for graduated driver’s licenses in all 50 states.  This legislation will give young drivers better education and more experience before they get out on the roads, keeping us all safer and saving lives.”

“This effort to bring all states into compliance with minimum federal standards for improved teen driving practices is vitally important to every American family and community. There isn’t a state in the nation, including New York, that has dodged the terrible suffering associated with preventable teen deaths in car crashes year in and year out. The STANDUP Act will make roadways safer for future teens, their families, and friends,” said Congressman Bishop, who is the author of the legislation in the House.

Click here for county-by-county data on how many New Yorkers lose their lives and are injured in car accidents involving teen drivers.

  • In New York City, 32 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 5,056 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • In Western New York, 18 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 4,922 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, 37 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 4,233 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • In Central New York, 33 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 3,512 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • In the Southern Tier, 14 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 1,849 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • In the Capital Region, 36 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 4,462 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • In the North County, 25 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 1,539 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • In the Hudson Valley, 45 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 9,008 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009.
  • On Long Island, 48 people died in car accidents involving 16 and 17-year-old drivers, in addition to 12,143 that were injured, from 2005 to 2009. 

To give teen drivers more experience and better driving education before they set out on the road, and to make our roads safer and save more lives, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop are introducing the STAND UP Act.

National Standards for GDLs
GDLs are a proven effective method for reducing the risk of crashes among new drivers by introducing teens to the driving experience gradually, phasing in full driving privileges over time in low-risk settings, and learning to eliminate distractions that cause accidents.  While every state has some version of a GDL system, the requirements vary widely and are very weak in some states.  For instance, 6 states allow for learner’s permits to issued to drivers as young as 14; 3 states have no regulations on nighttime driving for teen drivers; and 1 state (South Dakota) allows for a 16 year old to receive an unrestricted license.

The legislation would call on states to establish GDL systems with minimum requirements:

  • A 3-stage licensing process, from learner’s permit to intermediate state to full, non-restricted drivers licensing;
  • Prohibited night driving during intermediate stage;
  • Passenger restrictions during learner’s permit and intermediate stage. No more than one non-family member under the age of 21 may travel with a learning teenage driver, unless a licensed driver over the age of 21 is in the vehicle;
  • Prohibited non-emergency use of cell phones and other communication devices, including text messaging during the learner’s permit and intermediate stages;
  • Learner’s permits to be issued at age 16 and non-restricted drivers licenses to be issued at age 18;
  • Any other requirement set by the Secretary of Transportation, including: learner’s permit holding period of at least six months; intermediate stage of at least six months; at least 30 hours of driving supervised by a licensed driver 21 years old or older; automatic delay of  full licensure if permit holder commits an offense, such as a DWI, misrepresentation of age, reckless driving, driving without a seatbelt, speeding, or other violations determined by the Transportation secretary.

States would have a three year window to establish this set of minimum requirements.

Currently, New York already meets nearly all of these standards. Under the STAND UP Act, New York State would need to change the current regulations to require that an unrestricted license can only be acquired at age 18. Right now, that license can be acquired at age 17 in New York with a completed drivers education course.

Costs of Inaction
States that fail to meet new requirements within three years would lose out on 3 percent of their federal highway funding the first fiscal year of non-compliance, 5 percent for the second fiscal year, and 10 percent from the third fiscal year.

Facing similar consequences, all 50 states passed laws to establish 21 as the legal drinking age, a .08 percent legal blood alcohol level, and a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving.

Resources for States
The STAND UP Act would authorize $25 million in grants each year for three years to help give states the resources they need to put new standards in place – from enforcing standards, to training law enforcement, to publishing new educational materials.