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Keeping teen drivers safe

Many parents may feel a mix of anxiety and excitement when their teens get old enough to learn how to drive. While getting a driver's license is an exciting sign of growing independence, it may also introduce new risks into a teen's life. While car accidents involving teens are an unfortunate occurrence on Louisiana roads, there are some important things parents may do to help their teen drivers stay safe behind the wheel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are responsible for more teen deaths than any other cause. In 2017, there were 3,255 fatal accidents involving teen drivers.  Some of the most common reasons teen drivers get into accidents include immaturity, lack of experience, speeding and distracted driving. Parents may help combat some of these risks by demonstrating safe driving practices themselves, such as obeying speed limits and refusing to use cell phones while driving. It is also essential for parents to spend adequate time teaching teens to drive so they feel confident after they get their licenses.

One way that Louisiana and other states have tried to reduce teen car accidents is by adopting a Graduated Driver Licensing program. The Governors Highway Safety Association provides details on GDL programs, which vary by state. According to the GHSA, the overall goal is to give young drivers adequate time to gain experience before allowing them to obtain standard licenses.

In Louisiana, teens may obtain a learning license at 15 years old. After meeting the requirements for supervised driving, they may move to an intermediate license when they are 16. At this stage, the state restricts passengers and nighttime driving. There are also bans on using hand-held electronic devices for teens with learning and intermediate licenses. Once a teen meets all the requirements and passes a licensing exam, he or she may obtain a full driver's license at age 17. GDL programs provide more time for teens to gain practical driving experience that may help them make safer decisions once they gain full driving privileges.

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