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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 22, 2009

SCHUMER: HUNDREDS OF NYS TEENAGERS DIE IN TRAGIC CAR ACCIDENTS EVERY YEAR BECAUSE OF DRUNK AND UNSAFE DRIVING; ALL 62 COUNTIES IN NYS HAVE BEEN PLAGUED BY THESE TRAGIC AND UNTIMELY ACCIDENTS


Schumer Introduces Plan To Increase The Availability and Quality Of Drivers' Education Targeted At Young People; Hundreds of Deaths A Year In NYS Make Better Education Imperative

Drivers Ed Classes Focus On The Basics Of Driving - Schumer Plan Will Provide Opportunities For Continuing Education As Drivers Progress Through Their Teens

Schumer: The Bottom Line is, the More Safe Drivers We Have, the Better

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a plan to vastly increase and improve the education of teen drivers in New York State.  The number of teenagers tragically killed in automobile accidents every year indicates that drivers’ education should not simply end once teens get their licenses.  With free or affordable driver’s education courses not always available, and with few programs outside of the standard drivers’ education courses targeted specifically to teens, it is imperative that communities are provided with increased resources to aggressively address the problem of teen motor vehicle accidents.
 
Today, in an effort to decrease the number of teen deaths across New York State caused by car accidents, Schumer unveiled his plan to provide local governments, police departments, colleges and other community groups with funding to establish free drivers education classes targeted at alerting young people to the dangers of driving. 
 
“The bottom line is, the more safe drivers we can have, the better,” said Schumer. “With cell phones, GPS systems and other technologies increasingly distracting drivers from the road, it is more important than ever to provide drivers with opportunities to build a solid foundation to ensure that they are equipped with the skills and experience to drive safely and avoid accidents. My legislation will provide funding to communities to establish continuing education drivers’ courses to anyone who wants it to help prevent accidents among teens and all drivers.”
Car crashes are the leading cause of death of teenagers in the United States: every year over 5,000 teens aged 16 to 20 die due to fatal injuries from car accidents and about 400,000 drivers aged 16 to 20 are seriously injured. In New York State, 236 people were killed in crashed involving teens in 2007. Studies indicate that the risk of being involved in a car accident is higher for drivers aged 16 to 19 than it is for any other age group. In fact, for each mile driven, teen drivers are about four times more likely than other drivers to crash. Reasons for the elevated risk of death include a lack of experience and maturity, propensity for speeding, the influence of alcohol, and the tendency for teen-aged drivers to underestimate hazardous driving situations and recognize dangerous situations.
Here is how the numbers break down across New York State:
·         Over the last five years, 97 teens have died in car accidents in the Capital Region.
·         Over the last five years, 140 teens have died in car accidents in Western New York.
·         Over the last five years, 112 teens have died in car accidents in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region.
·         Over the last five year, 106 teens have died in car accidents in Central New York.
·         Over the last five years, 86 teens have died in car accidents in the Southern Tier.
·         Over the last five years, 238 teens have died in car accidents in the Hudson Valley.
·         Over the last five years, 85 teens have died in car accidents in the North Country.
·         Over the last five years, 278 teens have did in car accidents in Long Island.
·         Over the last five years, 316 teens have died in car accidents in New York City.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) research on the effectiveness of driver education indicates that driver education graduates have 50% fewer accidents than non-driver education drivers. However, the traditional driver education class has not been proven to be effective as a traffic safety measure over the long term. Drivers’ education is intended to prepare a student to pass his or her drivers’ test but, as it is presently offered, it does not allow for sufficient real-world driving experiences over an extended period of time. The courses also don’t allow for emotional maturity, a factor that has been proven to affect teen drivers and their proclivity for accidents.  Schumer today said that it is critical we provide teens with the opportunity – without costing them an arm and a leg – to take continuing driver’s education classes, especially after they have their licenses.  Such classes would be based on curriculum developed by the federal Department of Transportation.
Many individuals attend drivers’ education between the ages of 16 and 18 at a class offered at their local high school.  In-car instruction provides students with hands on driving experience under the tutelage of a driving instructor, an experience that cannot be gained through an online course or a government-issued drivers’ book, but once the course is completed, there are often no further efforts to improve on their abilities as drivers.
A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that crash risk is particularly high during the first year that a teenager is eligible to drive. With all the distractions in and outside of our vehicles, it is more important than ever to have a solid understanding of drivers’ education during a teen’s first few years behind the wheel to keep them, and everyone around them, safe. 
To help provide young drivers with the extra help they need to make them safe drivers, Senator Schumer announced today that he is introducing legislation that would create a grant program through the Department of Transportation to establish continuing education courses at local governments, police departments, colleges and other community groups to establish free drivers education classes targeted at young people who already have their driver’s licenses but could still benefit from instructions on safe operation of a motor vehicle and the potential dangers that driving poses. Classes would not be required but can be used as a resource for parents, teachers and teenagers.
Schumer’s bill would do the following:
·         Instruct the federal Department of Transportation to create a curriculum that focuses on the hazards faced by young drivers in the years after they receive their drivers licenses.  Studies have shown that they these are the most dangerous years for a driver, and the time that they could most benefit from continual, consistent instruction.  Such curriculum would involve both classroom instruction and a driving component.  The DOT would have the discretion to determine the length and the content of the curriculum, based on what they determine is the most effective way to deter accidents among teen drivers. 
·         Create a grant program through which local organizations could apply for funding to create classes based on the federal curriculum.  Eligible organizations would include community groups, local colleges, municipal governments, public safety organizations and high schools.  Such classes would not be mandatory, but would provide a much needed resource for parents and teachers who wish to provide their students or children with continual driving instruction.   Such classes would be in addition to whatever drivers education classes young drivers take prior to receiving their license. 
Schumer added, “The number of teenagers tragically killed in automobile accidents clearly indicates that drivers’ education should not simply end once teens get their licenses. This legislation will provide extended access to protective environments for new drivers to gain experience on the road.” 
 
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