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October 21, 2008
McKenna: ‘Safe’ and ‘Teen Driver’ don’t need to contradict

OLYMPIA —Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens – more than drugs, violence or suicide.

That’s why Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced his support for National Teen Driver Safety Week, an effort to address the leading safety threat to adolescents. The campaign runs Oct. 19-25.

“The term ‘safe teen driver’ doesn’t need to be an oxymoron, “McKenna said. “Parents and educators can have a real impact by investing plenty of time personally supervising teen drivers — instead of sending them out on their own as soon as they’re licensed to drive. “

Held annually on the third week of October, the week aims to educate teens about the risks associated with driving and encourages safety education. This year’s focus is on the impact that teen passengers have on their peers.

AG McKenna offered the following tips to teen drivers and passengers:

  •  Even brief distractions like cell phones, loud music or rowdy passengers can easily trigger an accident.
  • Learn how to “ride like a friend” by helping to reduce driving distractions, wearing a seatbelt and helping to navigate when asked.
  • Driver error and speeding are the leading causes of teen crashes. Slowing down and paying attention to road conditions helps to reduce the risk of danger.
  • Once a vehicle is in motion, the driver must devote his or her full attention to the task at hand – operating that vehicle safely. The phone call can wait. The sip of soda or bite of a burger can wait.  Nothing is more important than getting from point A to point B safely.

A study by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission shows that 107 drivers, ages 15-20 years old, were involved in Washington fatal traffic crashes in 2007. Sixty-three of the 111 persons killed in these crashes were the young drivers themselves (Preliminary data, Washington Traffic Fatalities, 1997-2007). According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), teen drivers represent less than 7 percent of drivers, but account for more than 13 percent of all deadly crashes.

Washington State has special rules for teen drivers, providing for an intermediate license for minors with the following restrictions:

  •  For the first 6 months, no passengers under the age of 20 unless they are members of the immediate family.
  •  For the next 6 months, no more than three passengers who are under 20 years old who are not members of the immediate family.
  •  For the first year, no driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a licensed driver age 25 or older.

The Century Council, a sponsor of Teen Driver Safety Week, has produced a driver concentration game at

Help organize an event or activity to promote Teen Driver Safety Week. Ideas can be found at:



Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

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