This year-long initiative will provide a package of teen driver safety materials to doctors across the state for use in counseling teens and their parents. The partnership includes The Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Hartford at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians, Mourning Parents Act (!MPACT), the Department of Motor Vehicles, and The Allstate Foundation.
In Connecticut, there were 33 motor vehicle occupant fatalities among persons under twenty years of age between 2000 and 2004. The majority of these motor vehicle crashes (80%) involved adolescents fifteen to nineteen years old. Moreover, between 2002-2005, there were 132 motor vehicle occupant injury admissions to Connecticut hospitals and 27,085 emergency department visits for this age group. Although sixteen and seventeen year olds account for 2.5% of Connecticut’s driving population, they accounted for 12% of these crashes. This means that one in six licensed sixteen year olds and one in nine licensed seventeen-year-old Connecticut drivers will be involved in a motor vehicle crash this year. These data parallel national statistics and illustrate the hazards motor vehicles pose to teenage drivers.
Parents whose teenage children died in automobile accidents have joined with medical professionals and the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles to enlist pediatricians and family physicians around the state in a unique accident-prevention education program for teenagers and their parents.
The goal is to prevent teen injuries and deaths by having their medical professionals engage in blunt conversations about state laws pertaining to teen drivers and the risks that teens often take when operating a motor vehicle.
"Our previous work has shown that pediatricians and family physicians can be influenced to change office practices and mobilized to become advocates in community education and policy changes. The Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Connecticut Academy of Family physicians have a successful history of promoting and influencing innovative office-based health care guidance for individuals and families," said Dr. Brendan Campbell, principal investigator for this project and part of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Hartford at Connecticut's Children's Medical Center.
"The heartbreak of losing a child is almost unendurable," said Governor M. Jodi Rell. "Young drivers sometimes need to be reminded they are not indestructible. Doctors can be an effective aide to parents in persuading teens that there is little margin for error behind the wheel. A single careless or risky moment can have terrible - even tragic - results."
The Connecticut Teen Driving Safety Partnership coalition is comprised of the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians, Mourning Parents Act (!MPACT), the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, the state Department of Motor Vehicles, state Department of Public Health, the Injury Free Coalition for Kids and the Allstate Foundation. Funding for the project comes from The Allstate Foundation.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens nationwide. Although 16- and 17-year olds made up 2.5 percent of Connecticut's driving population, they accounted for 12 percent of crashes between 2002 and 2005. Each year, nearly 6,000 teens are killed and more than 300,000 injured in crashes nationwide.In response to the statistics, the Allstate Foundation provided $50,000 to the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Hartford to develop, implement and evaluate a statewide campaign to increase physician involvement in the teen-driving issue.
In addition to providing health care practitioners with teen-driving safety messages to deliver in waiting rooms, during office visits and through in-home reminders, physicians will become more involved in community education and advocacy activities related to teen driving. Results from the pilot project will be shared on a national basis.
DMV Commissioner Robert M. Ward said, "We welcome this partnership and see it as another strong connection to getting our message about teen-driving safety to both parents and teens. I am excited about DMV having this opportunity to work with statewide caregivers who can deliver this important message."
"The Allstate Foundation believes teen driving is a public health crisis that has yet to find a high enough spot on the nation's public health agenda," said an Allstate spokesperson. "With the leadership of Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Hartford and its respected partners, we believe the health care community can use its unique expertise and authority to help surround teens with safe driving messages and ultimately protect teens when they get in a car as a driver or passenger.
"Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. J. Robert Galvin said, "Motor vehicle crashes are a major public health issue in Connecticut and across the country. The tragic consequences of motor vehicle fatalities involving young and inexperienced drivers and their passengers have devastating implications for their family, friends, and communities. Fortunately, virtually all automobile crashes are preventable. This partnership will help prevent them and protect our young drivers and the many victims of automobile fatalities."