How B.C. can reduce teen-driver deaths
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, Feb 25th 2015
The B.C. Coroners Service has made recommendations to reduce teen-driver deaths. One of the recommendations of the coroners service’s Child Death Review Panel is that ICBC conduct a review of the Graduated Licensing Program for new drivers. That’s the program that mandates a minimum one-year learning stage (L) and a two-year new-driver stage (N), which can be reduced to 18 months with completion of a Graduated Licensing Program-approved course.
A dramatic statistic is contained in the report. Since 2008, there has been an amazing reduction in the teen vehicle-death rate. In that year, there were 15.5 teen deaths in crashes for every 100,000 population. The following year, the number fell to 9.6. In 2010, it was 8.6, while in 2011 it fell still further, to another low of 7.7. It then dropped to an astonishing 4.8 and 3.9 in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The measures that ICBC has taken over the past decade to reduce teen deaths in vehicle crashes have had a dramatic and consistently positive effect on the relative safety of teen drivers.
From 2004 up to and including 2013, 106 youths were killed in vehicle crashes, the focus of the panel’s review. Speed, impairment, lack of seatbelt and inexperience were the major causes of the disproportionately high number of young males killed.
Motor-vehicle incidents remain the leading cause of death for the 15-to-18 age group.
The chair of the review panel said youths and their parents should become more engaged in developing solutions to reduce the death toll further.
The review panel was made up of three police representatives, two ICBC members, three doctors, an educator, a provincial ministry representative and RoadSafetyBC (the new name for the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles).
These representatives should be appreciated for their good work.
My concern about the makeup of the panel is simple. No members of the driving-school industry or representatives from private enterprise were included.
Perhaps such groups will now be consulted to provide practical strategies for reducing teen deaths behind the wheel.
The first recommendation of the panel is well thought out. It includes research on best practices in other jurisdictions. They need only look to the state of Oregon, the North American leader in teen fatal-crash reduction. With its geographical and demographic similarities, Oregon’s experience is startlingly applicable to B.C.
Engaging parents is another laudable goal.
The second recommendation includes the task of finding out more about teen distracted driving. This is a well-timed task, since distracted driving in several states south of the border now exceeds drunk driving as the leading cause of death for teen drivers.
The third recommendation involves speed monitoring by the use of “time and distance” cameras over specified stretches of roadway for a specific trial time period.
Here are some interesting details in the report:
• Teen males made up about 75 per cent of the total youth crash deaths considered by the panel.
• The majority of young drivers who were killed were in the “N” stage (68 of 106).
• One-third of the teens killed were driving contrary to licensing restrictions.
• One-third had violations before they died in a crash, which should serve as a warning to parents. Small violations should never be tolerated, as they can lead to major consequences.
• 33 teen drivers were killed in the Interior, 27 in the North, 18 in the Fraser Valley, 18 on the Island and only 10 in the Metro Vancouver area.
The full report text can be found at pssg.gov.bc.ca/ coroners/reports/docs/ young-drivers-deaths.pdf.
It is well worth reading.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.
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