Oct 18, 2013 5:37 PM by MELISSA CANONE
Louisiana has joined the national Teen Driver Safety Week observance, Oct. 20-26, to raise awareness of the increased dangers teenage drivers and passengers face while on the road.
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. Young drivers ages 15 to 20 are especially vulnerable to death and injury while behind the wheel for a number of reasons, which include immaturity and inexperience, low seat belt use, distracted driving and alcohol.
Safety advocates are especially concerned with the increase in driver distractions, such as texting, cell phones, MP3 players, GPS and other electronic devices and activities that compete for drivers' attention. Young people are among the most active users of texting and social media.
"We are asking parents to observe Teen Driver Safety Week by going over basic safety procedures with their children," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "Teens should be reminded of their responsibilities as both drivers and passengers."
According to preliminary data, 45 drivers ages 15-20 were killed in crashes in Louisiana last year. According to a national survey, nearly half of teens interviewed had ridden in a vehicle with a driver who texted and a third of the teens surveyed said they had texted while driving.
The Louisiana Legislature has taken important steps aimed at protecting motorists. The state has a graduated license procedure that requires completing a driver education course before a 15-year-old can be issued a "learner's permit." An "intermediate license," which carries a number of restrictions and requires 50 hours of supervised driving, can be issued at 16 years of age. A full license can be issued once a minor has had an intermediate license for one year and has been incident-free.
The Legislature has also prohibited texting and social media activities for all drivers. Cell phone use, including hands-free, is prohibited for drivers with a learner's permit or an intermediate license. State law requires all persons--including those in front and back seats--to wear their seat belts.