Teen traffic death study puts the spotlight on Siouxland states
By Kristen Johnson, Multimedia Journalist/ Weekend Anchor - bio | email
VERMILLION, S.D. (KTIV) -
Teenage drivers have the highest crash risk per mile traveled, overestimating their driving abilities and underestimating the dangers on the road.
A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety pinpoints which states are doing the best at keeping students safe behind the wheel, and which one's aren't.
Does sharing the road with 16 year olds leave you feeling fearful? Try 14.
"It makes me nervous," said Stanley Peterson, of Vermillion, South Dakota, who admits he started driving when he was eight, many decades ago.
Fourteen is the norm in Iowa and South Dakota. Tossha Westover's 14-year old son Marquese will get his permit at the start of the school year. He's excited, his mom's not.
"More peace mind... if they couldn't drive at all, until they were 21," joked Westover, although she thinks the age should be raised to 16 or over 18.
And of course, their ideas of what it takes to be a good driver are different.
"I'm old enough, tall enough to see over the steering wheel," said Marquese Tayborn.
"Of course, he think that as long as he can see over the steering wheel he can drive. Driving comes with responsibility," responded his mother.
Iowa and South Dakota are the most lenient states with drivers as young as 14 eligible for a permit. In South Dakota, they can even get a license, with no amount of supervision. In ag states like these, the rules of the road have more to do with chores on the farm.
"Many times, youth are utilized on the farm, and that's been really steeped in tradition," said Amber Lounsbery, the director of 4H youth programs for the Lincoln County Extension office.
The strictest states forbid teens from earning a learners permit until they're 16. After they get their license, there are restrictions for up to two more years. However, studies suggest those restrictions could make the difference between life and death.
"Per capita fatal crash rates have fallen by more than 60%," said Anne McCartt, VP of Research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Insurance Institute's findings match a study funded by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. University of South Dakota researchers acknowledge that "crash rates increase as state requirements decrease." The Rushmore state ranks 47th in the country in per capita deaths associated with young driver crashes.
In 2011, the Teen Driving Taskforce was set-up in South Dakota to examine crash statistics, review current laws that apply to teen drivers, and compare them to practices in other states.
"Their primary goal is to basically make the roadways safer not only for teen drivers but for everybody the teen driver might pass," said South Dakota Office for Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl.
This study suggests raising the permit age to 15 and granting an intermediate licenses with restrictions at 15 1/2. A full unrestricted license would come until age 17. Axdahl says these suggestions are merely a starting point.
"What the state tries to do is take some of these suggestions from outside parties and balance them against what's really going on in the state," said Axdahl.
If the state's statutes aren't strict enough, there's always the rule at home.
"Marquese has to earn the privilege to drive, he can't just jump in a car and go whenever he wants," said Westover.
Those behind these studies say parents shouldn't be afraid to wait to let their teen behind the wheel.
The Teen Driving Taskforce's recommendations will be presented to the legislature next year.
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