On May 14, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman announced the launch of the state’s annual safe summer driving campaign, a multi-agency initiative combining outreach and enforcement designed to prevent underage drinking and driving and impaired driving among young motor vehicle operators.
The campaign kicked off at a Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center event in Hartford with the help of state Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Commissioner Andres Ayala, Jr.; Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner James Redeker; Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Jewel Mullen; Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Jonathan Harris; Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon; members of the Connecticut State Police; the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association; and other advocates.
“With some of the toughest teen driving laws in the country, Connecticut is seeing fewer injuries and fatalities among young drivers, which is good news for everyone,” said Lt. Governor Wyman. “That said, teens are still getting into cars with drunk drivers, and they are reporting drinking behind the wheel. State agencies across Connecticut, law enforcement, and others are here today united in the effort to keep our youngest drivers—and our roads—safe for everyone.”
Statistics recently released by the DMV show that teen driver and passenger fatalities were at a 12-year low in 2014, with only one fatality among 16-17 year old drivers, and no 16-17 year old passenger fatalities.
“With graduations, parties, and summer concert season upon us, this is a good opportunity to remind all drivers of their responsibilities behind the wheel,” said DMV Commissioner Ayala, whose agency sponsors the education program “You’re NOT Just Along for The Ride, Safety is EVERYONE’S Responsibility.” He added, “The DMV and state and local police enforce safe driving laws, but prevention at home, in the vehicle, and among friends is key to safer roads.”
Between 2009 and 2013, state DOT statistics show that 1,042 alcohol-related crashes have occurred involving drivers between 16 and 20 years old. These included 46 fatal crashes and 52 fatalities.
The DOT is launching the federally funded “It’s Not My Kid” campaign, a series of television and radio commercials, billboard ads, and social media messages that underscore the dangers of impaired driving.
“Due to their inexperience behind the wheel, teen drivers are at a heightened risk for accidents—in fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers,” said DOT Commissioner Redeker. “Getting this important message out encourages parents to take an active role in safety, and can help us prevent injury and tragedy.”
In 2013, the Connecticut School Health Survey (CSHS) conducted by DPH and the Connecticut Department of Education reported the following:
-Twenty-two percent of teens reported being in a car with a drunk driver.
-Nine percent of teen drivers reported driving while drinking alcohol.
“In the 2013 CSHS, we found that one in five students reported binge drinking, and well over one third of teens said they consumed alcohol in the month before the survey,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Mullen.
The teen safe summer driving campaign includes additional enforcement by DCP Liquor Control Division and state and local police.
“DCP’s Liquor Control Division helps keep alcohol out of teens’ reach by educating retailers and conducting enforcement activities that carry strong consequences for those who would sell liquor to minors,” said Commissioner Harris. “Our efforts, combined with those of parents, friends, retailers, educators, law enforcement, and all who hear this message, can save lives.”
Prevention programs are also being sponsored by DPH, DMHAS, Live Nation concerts, MADD, and other advocates.
“We are all too familiar with the tragic consequences of underage drinking,” said DMHAS Commissioner Delphin-Rittmon. “This initiative can help save lives. Education, enforcement, and treatment are all strategies that positively impact the lives of young people and their families.”