EFHS hosts teen driver safety press conference

Photo by Bob Oliver
Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. (left) addresses a crowd of students on teen driver safety inside the Edsel Ford High School auditorium Dec. 3. O’Reilly, who is joined at the podium by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, was part of a press conference that announced a new driver safety program designed to assist parents in coaching their teenage children in better driving habits in an attempt to reduce accidents risks.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Traffic accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for 14- to 18-year-olds in the United States, something the Michigan secretary of state is looking to combat with a new safety initiative aimed at teenage drivers and their parents.

The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program, which is sponsored by Ford Motor Co., was announced by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson at a press conference at Edsel Ford High School Dec. 3.

The program uses several different formats, such as website resources, printed materials, and a mobile app to help parents coach their teen drivers more effectively as they work to complete the 50 hours of required supervised practice driving time for teens with the Level 1 Graduated Driver License, also known as a “learner’s permit.”

About 116,000 Level 1 licenses were issued in Michigan in 2012.

“Young drivers are significantly overrepresented in fatal crashes,” Johnson said. “This is primarily due to their inexperience and age. Driving is a complex task. Anything we can do to improve upon the practice time for teens can ultimately help reduce crashes due to lack of experience and poor judgment.”

A guidebook also was written for the program to provide parents with tips for coaching teenage drivers and it includes a detailed instruction plan, training tips and sample driving exercises that teens should practice.

“We need to get our parents actively involved with their young drivers and the guidebook will really benefit them because it offers tips they may not have considered, such as allowing the teenagers to drive in a variety of weather conditions and in unfamiliar settings, both of which will help them develop the skills and judgment needed to be safer drivers,” Johnson said.

She said the guide is being printed and distributed at no cost to taxpayers thanks to the public-private partnership with Ford and that parents will receive a copy at the Secretary of State office when their teen applies for the Level 1 license.

The guide also will be available for download online.

The guidebook is one of two aids designed for parents, with the other being a “RoadReady” mobile app that will allow parents and teens to electronically log the required minimum 50 hours of behind-the-wheel supervised driving time.

The app also provides GPS mapped drives, a record of road conditions, driving summaries and more.

“RoadReady” is available at no cost for iPhones and is expected to be available for other platforms in the spring.

Johnson was joined at EFHS by a panel of speakers, including Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., Ford Automotive Safety Officer Advanced Rulemaking and Strategy Manager Michelle Chaka, Safe Roads Alliance President Jeff Larson and Driver Rehabilitation Specialist and Michigan Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association President Christine Meddaugh.

O’Reilly said the city has a vested interest in teen driving safety.

“As a community, we really try to do anything we can to keep young people safe and a big part of that is driver safety,” O’Reilly said. “Accidents happen, but we want to limit them as much as possible and having teenagers getting more experience behind the wheel with an adult is one way to do that.”

O’Reilly said the city has 59 traffic accidents a year involving 16-year-old drivers, 97 with 17-year-olds, 386 with drivers aged 18 to 20 and 358 with drivers 21 to 24 years old.

He said the guidebook and app would be “critical tools” for drivers and their parents.

“If you don’t experience the different situations you face as a driver during your 50 hours with somebody there to help then when you first confront them on the road they could be overwhelming,” O’Reilly said. “It’s really in your long-term interest to practice the different scenarios and weather conditions in the guide.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)