The California Highway Patrol (CHP) offers a Smart Start course for 15- to 19-year-olds and their parents as part of its mission to limit the number of new teen drivers involved in car accidents each year. Throughout the United States, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teens and young adults aged 15-20.
Likely based on their inexperience behind the wheel, teen drivers are found to be at fault in two out of every three California motor vehicle accidents in which a teen driver is involved. Considering young drivers represent only about 4 percent of California’s total number of licensed drivers, that is a very alarming statistic.
The Smart Start program covers instruction on how to avoid a motor vehicle crash, conditions that make a crash more likely to occur, the importance of always wearing a seat belt and a discussion of the responsibilities of both teen drivers and their parents. The course also includes presentations by law enforcement who’ve investigated fatal motor vehicle accidents involving teen drivers as well as from families affected by tragic teen-driver crashes.
The CHP hopes that the additional education for new drivers will lower the number of teen drivers involved in California car accidents as well as protect the passengers of teen drivers and others on the road. By discussing possible scenarios that may cause a car accident, teen drivers will learn how to react appropriately to a situation before it arises, before there is panic, before a mistake behind the wheel becomes fatal.
When new drivers under 18 first get behind the wheel, they are given a provisional driver’s license. In the first year of driving, a provisional driver’s license prohibits teen drivers from driving between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am unless a licensed adult over 25 is in the car. New drivers are also not allowed to carry passengers under age 20 unless another licensed adult over 25 is in the car also.
Source: CA.gov, “Start Smart: Driving Smart to Stay Safe”