Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, with teen drivers ages 16 to 19 three times more likely than drivers ages 20 and older to be in a fatal crash per mile driven. For several years, the Teen Driver Safety Research team at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has strived to reduce the frequency and severity of teens’ motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities.
The team’s efforts have received numerous accolades and acknowledgements, with the most recent from the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, which awarded CIRP the 2013 Graduated Driver License (GDL) Champion Award.
The annual GDL award program recognizes those who have advocated for New Jersey’s three-step, novice driver licensing system. Designed to ensure teens survive their most dangerous driving years, GDL helps them gain experience and build the skills necessary to become competent, skilled drivers for life.
CIRP’s support of enhancements to the state’s GDL program, coupled with guidance in developing and evaluating New Jersey’s “Share the Keys” program and research assessing the impact of the nation’s first GDL decal requirement merit this recognition.
Over the past five years, the CIRP team has supported and assisted New Jersey teen driver safety advocates working to not only strengthen the state’s GDL program, but also to engage parents and law enforcement officers in understanding and enforcing its evidence-based provisions.
CIRP’s specific teen driver-related work has focused on testifying at committee hearings and meeting with legislators to advocate for bills calling for stricter passenger and nighttime driving provisions and a longer permit phase that includes increased parent-supervised practice driving hours and parent education.
Significantly, CIRP developed rigorous methods to evaluate the effect of New Jersey’s decal program on enforcement of GDL provisions and on probationary driver crash rates. In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, they reported that in the first year of implementation GDL-related citations issued to probationary drivers increased 14 percent and the rate of police-reported crashes among the same group declined 9 percent.
“CIRP’s interest in evaluating the nation’s first GDL decal has been important not just to New Jersey, but also to other states considering similar public policy,” said Center co-scientific Director Flaura K Winston, MD, PhD “Additionally, despite other countries requiring teen drivers to display decals for many decades, this is the first scientific look at the effect of decals on crash rates.”
Center staff also regularly provide guidance to the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety and other groups to develop research-based, data-driven programs that includes clear behavioral objectives that are helping parents recognize the critical role they play in helping their teens survive their most dangerous driving years.
CIRP will receive the award today at the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition’s “Champions” luncheon. For more information on CIRP’s teen driver safety research, visit teendriversource.org.