WETHERSFIELD, CT - Sunday marks the beginning of Connecticut’s Teen Safe Driving Awareness week (Dec. 1-7) and the 10th anniversary of this designation to remind teens, parents and their communities about the need for teen drivers and their passengers to be safe and use common sense when driving.
Three mothers whose teenage sons were killed in car crashes in 2002 championed this special time the following year as a safety message to help prevent crashes, injuries and deaths among teens and their passengers. They formed a group called !MPACT, also known as Mourning Parents Act, to advance their cause.
As a result of tougher teen driving laws instituted in 2008 and aimed at 16 and 17 year-olds, a corps of safety advocates has arisen around the state, including members of !MPACT. Since 2002, driver deaths for 16 and 17 year-olds has dropped by 81 percent since the year their sons died.
“The leading cause of death for American teenagers is motor vehicle crashes, many times the result of an inexperienced driver making poor decisions while operating a motor vehicle,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy. “We have passed several laws to combat reckless and distracted driving, but addressing the root of this problem - before tragedy occurs - requires teaching teen drivers about the dire consequences of irresponsible behavior when they are behind the wheel. !MPACT’s teen safety driving program has proven to be one of the many effective ways to accomplish this goal, and I look forward to working together to bring this message to more young drivers in our state.”
DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey applauded the efforts of !MPACT and the many other safety advocates around the state.
“They work tirelessly on this issue and the state as a whole benefits from all the volunteer effort of many advocates. !MPACT, by starting a tradition of designating this week, has helped to keep our conversation going across the many communities in Connecticut,” she said.
Sherry Chapman, co-founder and president of !MPACT has seen many changes in the last decade. Her son, Ryan, 17, was killed when the teen driver of a car in which he was riding crashed in Hebron on December 7, 2002.
"We have worked tirelessly to raise awareness, educate the public on the hazards of teen driving, and promote policy changes at the state and federal levels. Thanks to the commitment of the Department of Motor Vehicles, combined with our efforts and those of other safety advocates in the state, Connecticut now has some of the most stringent laws in the country to protect teen drivers and their passengers," she said.
"I commend Governor Malloy for reminding the public that, while we are entering a season of joy and celebration, we must be mindful to take the precautions we would any other time of year," she added.
!MPACT has developed a teen driving safety program in which members share their personal experiences in a powerful presentation that has proven success in promoting safe driving and riding behavior in teens. Teens learn about the shocking statistics, risk factors, what happens to the body in a crash, what the states are doing to protect them and what they can do to protect themselves and their friends.
James Redeker, DOT Commissioner, said, “We must be consistent, even aggressive, on the issue of instilling the right driving habits in our youngest drivers, and Teen Safe Driving Awareness Week helps us repeat and reinforce this crucial endeavor. This dual educational and enforcement effort underscores the seriousness with which we take this issue and I commend !MPACT, Commissioner Currey, AT&T and the Travelers for keeping our message at the top of the minds of teen drivers.”
AT&T is a partner with both DOT and DMV in public awareness efforts and Travelers is the co-sponsor of DMV’s annual teen safe driving video contest.
Dr. Brendan Campbell, director of Pediatric Trauma at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and Garry Lapidus, PA, director of CCMC’s Injury Prevention Center, were early partners with !MPACT. They worked together in getting pediatric physicians across the state to address the issue during wellness office visits with teens and their parents.
“Sherry and her organization have done a tremendous job in making this a visible issue. We appreciate our partnership with !MPACT and the many good efforts that have come from it,” Campbell said.