EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Indiana led the country with teen driver fatalities in the first part of 2012, and was one of only six states where the number of deaths between the first part of 2011 and 2012 increased by more than five. Hoosiers saw a jump of 13 fatalities between the two years — the highest in the country, according to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
U.S. News & World Report ranked the state as 38th, with first being the safest state for teen drivers, based on 11 factors, including teen driver deaths per year, percent of teen driver deaths involving alcohol or drugs, teen driver's license laws, road conditions, vehicle miles traveled and laws pertaining to driving, such as distracted driving and driving while intoxicated.
The news agency gave the state a "failing" or "insufficient score in several of the categories and said the state's 10-year average teen driver deaths per year is 148.
Sgt. Jason Cullum, Evansville Police Department public information officer, said teen driver fatalities aren't a huge issue in the Evansville area, but safety should be at the forefront for those drivers. There are several things teens and their parents can do to improve safety.
"The No. 1 thing for teen drivers is to avoid distracted driving," he told the Evansville Courier & Press. "Cellphones, radios and other passengers can distract drivers. Always wear your seat belt and obey traffic control devices. There are many safe driving techniques taught during their initial training courses. It is important for them to remember those things. They are not things you need to know for a BMV test and then forget about."
Cullum said when teens are driving in conditions they aren't used to — winter weather or an area with a lot of traffic — it is important to adjust their usual driving habits to compensate for the changes, including reducing their speed or choosing a less traveled roadway.
Tony Hare, managing product director for Travelers Personal Insurance, said the IntelliDrive system — now available in Indiana — can help parents and teen drivers even more.
The palm-sized device supplied by the insurer plugs into a port under the car's steering wheel and sends driving data to a secure website.
He said the data show how, when and where the teen driver drives, as well as whether the driver speeds, accelerates too quickly and slams on the brakes, as well as when, how often and where all those things happen. Parents can also opt in to receive alerts via email or text if the child is driving aggressively or outside of the time frame or area the parent and teen have agreed upon.
The device, Hare said, is a tool to help parents initiate an ongoing conversation with their teen about safe driving and how they can improve their skills.
The program was launched initially by the insurer to help low-mileage drivers reduce annual vehicle expenses with the mileage-based auto insurance product.
Teen drivers can receive a discount by using the device as well.
"It can help provide more peace of mind," Hare said.