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Researchers endorse teen driving programs

Thousands of teenagers die around the country each year in motor vehicle accidents, and police investigations often reveal that they were ignoring posted speed limits or staring at cellphone screens when they died. Public information campaigns have done little to deter young drivers from behaving recklessly behind the wheel, but a Baylor University study suggests that supplemental driver's education programs that bring teenagers face-to-face with the consequences of speeding and distraction could succeed in Connecticut and across the U.S. where more conventional approaches have failed.

A group of 21 teens with checkered driving histories were asked a series of road safety questions both before and after they took part in a risk reduction program that included trips to intensive care units and morgues. Researchers found that visiting these places and speaking with the doctors, nurses and pathologists who work in them made the teens far more aware of the possible consequences of even a moment's impatience or distraction. However, the researchers did not gather enough follow-up information to find out if these lessons were applied when the teens got back behind the wheel.

The teens were participating in the Texas Reality Education for Drivers program sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation, which is one of hundreds of such programs being run by government agencies around the country. Risk reduction programs aimed at younger drivers are also offered by hospitals, insurers and private companies.

People who have been harmed in car accidents caused by young drivers may assume that taking legal action would be fruitless. Experienced personal injury attorneys could point out that while teens may not have the income or assets needed to make restitution, Connecticut law also holds their parents or guardians responsible in certain situations.

Source: Connecticut Statutes, "Parental liability for torts of minors", accessed on Sept. 8, 2018

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