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Your newly-licensed teen may not be as good a driver as you think

teenage driver
Teens who wait until age 18 to get a license could be more at risk of accidents

In the past decade, fatal car crashes for teen drivers ages 18 to 20 haven't declined as much as those for younger teens, ages 15 to 17.

That's according to a study commissioned by Ford Safe Driving for Life, a program to teach teens to be safer drivers.

Jim Graham is Manager of the program.  He says the problem appears to be that more teens are waiting until they are 18 or older to get their license.

"They probably didn't have any training until they went in to get their driver's license," says Graham, "because after 18, you don't have to go through graduated driver's licensing, you don't have to go through driver's ed."

Graduated driver's licensing has been adopted in many states for drivers age 15 to 17, including in Michigan.  The laws place restrictions on new, inexperienced drivers, such as not being permitted to use cell phones while driving, and only permitting one other teen in the car, to limit distractions.  The restrictions are gradually phased out as the driver becomes more experienced.

The Governor's Highway Safety Association is calling for graduated licensing for the older teens as well.

Graham suspects it's going to be a long while before that happens, but he says parents can take action on their own if they have an older teen who is getting a license for the first time.  He recommends enrolling the teen in programs like Safe Driving for Life, as well as driver's education classes.

Parents can impose restrictions on their older teen drivers, such as making sure they don't drive without a parent in the car, at first, and limiting the number of friends that can be in the car once teens are driving on their own.

Graham says younger teens are also being taught in driver's ed how dangerous it is to text and drive.  Older teens who don't go through the programs may not be getting that important message - so parents should not only insist on no texting while driving - they should make sure they never do it themselves.

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