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Occupant Protection

In 1998, 66 percent of teens, ages 15 through 18, killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts.

Failure to buckle up contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behavior.

Seat belts are designed so that the forces in a crash are absorbed by the strongest areas of your body - the bones of your hips, shoulders and chest.

They prevent you and other occupants from being thrown into the vehicle, each other or ejected from the vehicle.

Seat belts provide the greatest protection against occupant ejection.


Wear the lap/shoulder belt combination adjusted so it is low across the hips and pelvis, and never across the stomach.

Sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel.

Wear the shoulder belt across the chest and collarbone.

Sit upright and sit back in the seat.

Make sure all passengers are buckled up.

Serious injury can occur if:

The belt is worn across the stomach.

The shoulder belt is placed behind the back.

The belt worn under an arm.

The shoulder belt has excessive slack (more than one inch).


Speed is defined as exceeding the posted speed limit or traveling too fast for conditions.

In 1998, speeding was recorded as a factor in 38 percent of fatal crashes involving 15 through 18 year old drivers.

Two-thirds (67%) of 16 to 20 year old drivers surveyed reported keeping up with the faster traffic.

Driving 45 miles per hour (mph) instead of 35 mph on a five-mile trip, you will save less than two minutes before arriving at your destination.

The faster a vehicle is traveling, the greater the chance of serious injury in the event of a crash.

If you were to crash into a barrier at 45 mph, your impact speed would be roughly the same as that reached after falling from a seven story building.


In 1998, 22 percent of drivers between the ages of 15 and 18 killed in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking. Fifteen percent had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 or above and seven percent had a BAC of 0.01 to 0.09.

Every state and the District of Columbia have minimum drinking age laws of 21. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates these laws have saved 18,220 lives since 1975. In 1998 alone, minimum drinking age laws saved 861 lives.

All states and the District of Columbia have set a BAC limit of .02 or lower for drivers under the age of 21 (Zero Tolerance Laws).

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy or publically possess alcohol, let alone drive impaired.

Underage drinking increases as young people progress through school. In 1998, eight percent of 8th graders, 21 percent of 10th graders, and 33 percent of high school seniors said that they had been drunk within the past 30 days.

If an individual is found to be impaired while driving, he/she will experience criminal repercussions (fines, loss of driving privileges, incarceration, and a criminal record).

In some cases the penalties can be even tougher for young adults, because as drivers under the age of 21, they are not only breaking the law that prohibits driving while intoxicated, but also the law that prohibits underage drinking.

Graduated Driver Licensing

Three factors work together to make the teen years so deadly for young drivers:

Risk-taking behavior and immaturity
Greater risk of exposure

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is a three stage licensing system designed to lengthen the learning period for novice drivers. The system is designed to phase in young beginners to a full driving privilege as they mature and develop their driving skills.

Stage One - Learner’s Permit

This stage generally includes:

passing vision and knowledge tests
having a licensed adult (21 or older) in the vehicle at all times
zero alcohol while driving
all vehicle occupants must wear seat belts
remaining violation and crash free at least 6 months
completing basic skills training
parental certification of practice driving hours

Stage Two - Intermediate/Provisional

This stage generally includes:

passing a behind-the-wheel road test
zero alcohol while driving
all occupants must wear seat belts
supervised night driving
remaining violation and crash free at least 12 months
completing advanced driver education
license distinctive from a regular license
supervised practice

Stage Three - Full License

This stage generally includes:

Unlimited driving privileges
Drivers must successfully complete the intermediate license stage; meet the minimum age requirement by the state; and zero alcohol tolerance for those under age 21.
40 states have changed their licensing laws pertaining to young novice drivers since 1996. Thirty-two states have matched or exceeded all component parts of a model Graduated Driver Licensing law established by national traffic safety organization.
Graduated driver licensing has been shown to be effective by
Expanding the learning process
Reducing risk exposure
Improving driving proficiency
Enhancing motivation for safe driving

Graduated driver licensing has been shown to reduce crashes among young drivers. Florida’s GDL law resulted in a 9 percent reduction in crashes for drivers 16 and 17 years old. California reported a 5 percent reduction in crashes for drivers age 16 and 17 and Oregon experienced a 16 percent reduction in crashes for male drivers age 16 and 17, after enacting component parts of the graduated licensing system.

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