GLEN BURNIE, MD (October 20, 2022) – In an effort to educate teen drivers of the dangers of distracted driving, the nationwide Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and General Motors have awarded the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office with a grant to bring the fast-paced and engaging ThinkFast Interactive (TFI) program to young drivers at nine Maryland high schools.
Maryland is one of seven states awarded a grant to fund innovative countermeasures to combat the prevalent – and preventable – issue of distracted driving. The $30,000 grant allows MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office to bring the TFI program to Maryland at no cost to the schools. Using a data-driven approach, the nine high schools will be selected based on communities with a high propensity of distracted driving crashes among young drivers. TFI uses a trivia-based game show format, based on active learning theories, to connect young people with distracted driving information. The program has a track record of increasing youth awareness about the dangers of driving distracted.
“GHSA is thrilled to support Maryland in combating distracted driving by changing the social norms among our next generation of drivers,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Maryland is a leader in developing innovative safety programs and we are excited to follow along as they embark on this effort.”
Every year in Maryland, more than 10,400 drivers between the ages 15 and 19 are involved in police-reported motor vehicle crashes. More than 1,700 are injured and 16 are killed every year.
“Although teenagers may feel invincible, it’s important to remind teen drivers they’re at greater risk on the road due to inexperience,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “We urge all parents to continuously have conversations with their teens about safe driving. We want everyone to make it to their destination, and that starts with safe driving behaviors.”
The grant announcement comes during Teen Driver Safety Week (October 16 -22), and MDOT MVA is urging teens – and their parents – to remember important rules behind the wheel involving impaired driving, seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding and large numbers of passengers.
- Impaired Driving. Teens are too young to legally buy, possess or consume alcohol. Last year in Maryland, however, five drivers involved in fatal crashes who had alcohol or drugs in their system were between ages 15 and 20 – all under the minimum drinking age. Alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep someone from driving safely. Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Driving is a complex task, and marijuana slows reaction time. Teens must remember that driving under the influence of any impairing substance, including illicit or prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication, could have deadly consequences.
- Seat Belt Safety. Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways to stay safe in a vehicle. Too many teens, however, simply aren’t buckling up. Often, when a teen driver involved in a fatal crash was unbuckled, other passengers who died were also unbuckled. Adults are asked to remind teens it’s important that everyone in the car is buckled up, front seat and back – every trip, every time.
- Distracted Driving. Cell phone use while driving is more than just risky — it can be deadly and is illegal in Maryland. Set an example and remind teens about the dangers of texting and using a phone while driving. Distracted driving isn’t limited to cell phone use. Eating or drinking while driving and paying attention to passengers, audio and climate controls can result in distractions. Remind your teen that wearing headphones while driving is illegal in Maryland, and can distract from hearing sirens, horns or other important sounds.
- Speed Limits: Speeding is a critical issue for all drivers, especially teens. While males are more likely to be involved in fatal speeding-related crashes than females, it is important to remind all teens to always drive within the speed limit. The probability of death or serious injury grows with impacts at higher speeds, doubling for every 10 mph over 50 mph that a vehicle travels. All motorists must remember that posted speed limits are set assuming ideal weather and traffic conditions. Bad weather, areas of road work and other factors may require motorists to drive below the posted speed limit.
- Passengers. Research shows the risk of a fatal crash goes up dramatically in relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers. Parents should enforce the passenger restriction for teens with provisional licenses, which does not allow for any passengers under age 18, other than immediate family members, without a qualified supervising driver for the first 151 days.
Schools interested in having the TFI program or other highway safety programs brought to their students, teachers or administrators can fill out the resource form on ZeroDeathsMD.gov.
Learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.gov and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.