Teen Driving

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Q & A with Erin Sauber-Schatz, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior research scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Erin Sauber-Schatz is an epidemiologist on the Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention Team in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her areas of expertise include child passenger safety and teen driving safety.

Be Smart. Be Well. sat down with Erin Sauber-Schatz to discuss teen driving. Watch the video interview above or read the transcript below.

To learn more about Teen Driving, visit Be Smart. Be Well. Teen Driving.

BSBW: What are the top three things a teen should do when they get behind the wheel?

Erin Sauber-Schatz: First of all buckle their seatbelt. Seatbelts are proven to reduce the risk of serious and fatal injuries by 50 percent. That's not a gamble you want to take. And another thing that they can do is take the time to familiarize themselves with the vehicle, know where all the switches are, know how to operate the vehicle and operate it safely. And a third thing that a teen can do is, is put distractions aside. Make sure your cellphone is off and away. If you need to make a phone call, pull off on the side of the road. Definitely don't text while you drive and be a focused and responsible driver. And I'd like to add something to that. If you're a passenger, be a responsible passenger, so that your driver makes the choices that will keep both of you safe.

BSBW: What are Graduated Driver's Licensing Systems, or GDLs?

Erin Sauber-Schatz: Graduated driver's licensing systems are programs that are put into place in order to take a teen through three stages of the licensing process.  The first stage is the learner's permit, and this is the stage where the teen is driving with adult supervision.  The second stage is the intermediate stage where a teen can drive by themselves but they have certain restrictions, such as not being allowed to drive with, other passengers, other teen passengers in the car or driving at night.  And the third stage is full licensure.

BSBW: How do Graduated Driver's Licensing Systems benefit teens and parents?

Erin Sauber-Schatz: Teens have a lot to gain from graduated driver's licensing programs. It allows them to learn in a gradual process, while keeping them safer on the road. The teen knows what the expectations are of the parent. It removes a misunderstanding or a miscommunication between parents and teens. And it allows the parents the opportunity to express their concern for their teen being on the road.

BSBW: What is most important for parents to know when teens start to learn to how to drive?

Erin Sauber-Schatz: It's important to make the time and work with your teen, to give them the experience and make sure that they're being safe. And talk with other parents as well. Mile for mile teens are four times more likely than older adults to be involved in a crash. In 2010 teen drivers aged 16-19 were involved in over one million crashes. That's more than 2,700 crashes a day. It's unimaginable that eight teens lose their life to driving every single day.

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In this Issue

Table of Contents

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  • Feature Article | Teen Driving

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to teach teens to drive. Leading by example, and talking to kids early and often about the risks and responsibilities of driving can help teens avoid accidents and become safe drivers.


  • Ask the Expert | Teen Driving

    What are the top three things teens should do when they get behind the wheel? This, and more with Erin Sauber-Schatz, Ph.D., M.P.H., an investigator with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


  • Life Stories Video | Teen to Teen

    Be Smart. Be Well. got real teens to talk about driving, what they do to be safe drivers and what really happens when they’re behind the wheel.


  • Challenge Yourself | Quick Quiz

    Why do teens crash more than older drivers? When are teen drivers most at risk? Take this quiz to test your teen-driving smarts.