New York Close, But Not There In Steps to Improve Teen Driver Ed

Just under 14,000 New York teens find themselves in traffic accidents each year, and the state legislature seems to recognize that with attempts to beef up its permit and licensing program. But is it enough?

Some argue that there are several loopholes that allow teens to get an unrestricted license without much seat time. For example, if a 17-year-old completes a drivers education course, they can test for and receive an unrestricted license and bypass most of the process.

The problem with that is that graduated driving programs in all states have been shown to cut fatal accidents by roughly 40 percent, a startling number coming from researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Loopholes like this are also found in other states, but it seems a little strange considering the legislature's recent efforts to strengthen the drivers education programs.

For example, teens generally need to have 50 hours of supervised driving time, with an adult or guardian with them, in order to obtain a junior license. "Cinderella" licensing means they have to keep passengers to just one, and not drive from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. These two measures alone would limit key factors safety experts say are linked to teens getting into accidents on a more frequent basis.

But the loophole takes the training wheels off too soon for teen drivers, some say, because they don't have independent driving experience to learn how to drive without distractions. Whether or not the Senate passes a potential bill creating a national driving standard, New York teens could still benefit from on-the-road training in addition to their online drivers ed courses.

One of the other aspects that teens may forget about is the health of their car. When first handed the keys, it can seem like freedom and independence rolled up into one aluminum-based conveyance. However, teens who want to stay safe on the roadways need to take care of their vehicles as much as they do themselves.

Parents can help their teens by teaching them how to check air pressure in the tires about once a month, as well as oil levels using the dipstick. Less regular check-ups that can have a significant effect include windshield wipers. In Northern states, these can often become brittle and not work as well, making for significant vision problems in inclement weather.

It's one facet of an overall education program that can help teens stay safe in vehicles that operate properly. Considering that half of all fatal accidents affect those aged 16-19, continued efforts to improve the ability for teens to avoid problems make a lot of sense.

If you aren't mechanically inclined, or want to make sure that other inner workings of your car are working properly, several dealerships in the Northeast are taking advantage of Teen Driving Safety Month to offer free safety inspections. You can also ask your local mechanic or check the next time you bring your vehicle in for an oil change.