Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Alabama Graduated Driver License Law

By Kathy Monroe, MD
Emergency Medicine Physician, Children’s of Alabama

We all like surprises, right?

Recently I was surprised that a friend did not know that Alabama ranked second nationally in teen driving fatalities.

In the Emergency Room at Children’s, caring for kids who have been involved in motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) is an all too common occurrence. As a member of the Alabama Safe Teen Driving Coalition, Children’s is reaching out to pediatricians and family practice physicians this month to raise awareness of the Alabama Graduated Driver License Law.

The law, passed in 2002 and refined in 2010, was intended to keep teen drivers safer on our roads, yet many physicians (and parents and teens, even some in law enforcement) are unaware that this law even exists.

The members of the Alabama Safe Teen Driving Coalition believe that empowering physicians to help educate teen drivers and their parents about the risks faced on the roads they travel is key. While knowledge of the law is only the first step in helping parents and teens decrease the number of these deaths, we want to help physicians initiate the conversation.

In addition to raising awareness about the law, we encourage all doctors to know the leading contributors to teen driver crashes and engage teen drivers in conversation about these topics:
• Not wearing a seat belt
• Distractions inside the car
• Driving while using alcohol or drugs
• Speeding, aggressive or reckless driving
• Driving after dark
• Too many passengers in the car
• Talking on cell phones while driving
• Texting while driving
• Eating or drinking while driving
• Adjusting the radio, CD player, temperature controls, etc.
• Loud music in the car or wearing headphones

The Alabama Graduated Driver License Law places restrictions on young drivers to help ensure their safety. Parents should know the law and enforce it with their teen drivers. If you are a pediatrician or family practice physician, you can help us educate parents and teens by sharing the teen driving educational materials available at www.childrensal.org/healthcareprofessionals or www.alaap.org

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