Learning to drive can be exciting for teens, but many do not have a real concept of the danger they are in every time they get behind the wheel. They see the abilities of parents and other experienced drivers and assume they will easily acquire the skills.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, per mile driven, the crash rate for teens is almost four times higher than drivers who are 20 and older. Car crash injuries are the number one cause of death for teens in the U.S.
Risky behaviors behind the wheel compounded by a lack of experience are major characteristics of fatal crashes. Teens are more likely to make errors that cause deaths. Other factors common to many teen accidents include excessive speeding, driving at night and having other teenagers in the vehicle.
Graduated driver licensing
Because of the increased crash risks for teen drivers, many states, including Delaware, have instated graduated driver licensing programs. These programs set limits on new drivers that lift as they gain experience.
Features of Delaware’s GDL program include requiring proof of a completed driver education course and the signature of an adult sponsor who agrees to be jointly liable if the teen’s negligence causes damages. Only a parent, guardian or licensed driver with the sponsor’s approval may be in the front seat supervising a teen with a Level One Learner’s Permit. The supervisor must be a Class D license holder for a minimum of five years, and she or he must be at least 25 years old. One other passenger may ride in the car, or the driver’s family members may be passengers.
Other safety restrictions on drivers with a Level One Learner’s Permit include the following:
- A teen with a permit must wear a seat belt.
- All minor passengers in the vehicle must also wear a seat belt or be in the appropriate child safety seat.
- The permit holder must not use a smartphone or other electronic device while operating the vehicle.
After having a valid Level One Learner’s Permit for six months, the teen driver may drive without a supervisor between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and may have one other person in the vehicle.