This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week, an appropriate time to review Oregon’s teen driving laws and remember that much can be done to prevent traffic accidents. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2005, twelve teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries, according to the CDC. Among teen drivers, those at the highest risk include male drivers, teens driving with other teen passengers, and teens in their first year of driving.
The numbers are startling but much can be done to help teens drive more safely and reduce these statistics. Research shows that graduated licensing (GDL) programs are very effective in reducing fatal and injury crashes for teen drivers, but these laws need to be followed and enforced. Oregon’s GDL laws place several restrictions on drivers under 18.
Specifically, Oregon’s GDL program requires that drivers under 18 hold an Oregon instruction permit for six months prior to applying for a driver’s license. Teens are also prohibited from carrying teen passengers (unless family members) in the car for the first six months, and late night driving is restricted for the first year. For a comprehensive list of Oregon’s GDL laws, visit www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV or check with your insurance company.
Of course, cell phones and texting only increase the risk factor for all drivers. Under the current law (House Bill 2872), drivers under 18 are prohibited from using cell phones while driving, including texting and using hands-free operation of cell phones. As of January 1, 2010, when House Bill 2377 takes effect, cell phone use will be restricted for all Oregon drivers. The law will allow hands-free devices for drivers over 18 years of age only. For more information on House Bill 2377, visit www.gov.oregonlive.com/billHB2377.
### Erika Weisensee lives in Milwaukie and teaches writing and communication courses at the University of Portland.