Readers Respond

Safe teen driving starts with parental involvement | READER COMMENTARY

In this photo illustration, a program for Lamar Anthony Patterson's funeral sits in the foreground as mourners enter the Huber Community Life Center on Wednesday, February 16. The 17-year-old was killed in car crash on his way to St. Frances Academy. (Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Sun).

Teenagers who drive on Maryland roadways have a much higher level of risk than adults when getting behind the wheel. In fact, teen drivers are about three times more likely than drivers 20 and older to die in a crash, are more prone to losing focus in the driver’s seat and less likely to lower their speed to compensate for slick roads or poor visibility. Statistics like this, combined with the exponential increase in vehicle deaths since the summer of 2019, are sources of serious concern for the safety of our young drivers (”St. Frances football standout Lamar Patterson dies in car crash with light rail train on way to school,” Feb. 3).

“Navigate to Safety: Roadmaps for Parents of Teen Drivers” is a new program that serves as a practical tool to enhance teen driver safety and that of all drivers, passengers and pedestrians on Maryland roads. As the mother of three teen sons who will soon drive on Maryland’s roadways, I plan to utilize this new safety program as a way to discuss safe driving habits at home. The program offers guidelines for parents of teen drivers including tools to understand state-to-state driving laws, methods to utilize auto safety technology and helpful tips for choosing a teen-appropriate automobile.


Embracing tools for new teen motorists, including driving technologies when used properly, has the potential to prevent or mitigate up to three-quarters of fatal crashes involving teen drivers providing immense safety benefits. Past research has shown that teen drivers are typically worse at recognizing hazards and controlling the vehicle than more experienced drivers, resulting in more loss-of-control and run-off-road crashes.

Due to a unique set of risk factors that include high rates of speeding, low seat belt use and lower levels of overall driver experience, teens benefit from extra guidance to ensure that they formulate safe driving habits from the very beginning. For example, the safety benefits of readily available crash avoidance technologies, such as front crash prevention and lane departure prevention, could be particularly relevant for teen drivers even though these features are designed for all motorists.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association created the Navigate to Safety program to address the key risk factors involved with new drivers and to educate parents as to which best practices can reduce dangers for their new motorists. The series of “road maps for parents” are specifically designed based on decades of highway safety research and offer tools that can improve teen driver safety and make parents more prepared to support their teen drivers during their first years behind the wheel. There is even a “parent-teen contract” that can be reviewed and signed together at home to help your teens develop responsible habits from the moment they begin to drive.

Talking to our teens is the ticket to safety and together we can all create a generation of safe drivers and safer roadways for everyone in Maryland.

Stephanie Strategos Polis, Bethesda

The writer is assistant vice president for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

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