Target Zero engages with youth in Teen Safe Driver Week

Information and awareness campaign Oct. 18 through Oct. 24

CLARK COUNTY — Nearly a third of all traffic accident fatalities in the state of Washington from 2012 to 2014 involved a young driver; usually in their teens. During that time, the same demographic of drivers made up a mere 13 percent of Washington’s driving population.  

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s (WTSC) Target Zero program is continuing its effort to eliminate traffic fatalities in the state by 2030, and next week they’ll be engaging those young drivers.

“I think the goal of getting down to zero fatalities is a very challenging goal,” said Vancouver State Farm Agent Jeremiah Stephen, who works with Target Zero. “If no one does anything, we’re not gonna hit anything. So at least we got a goal up there that we’re trying to attain, and if I can do my part by relaying the ramifications around insurance, and driving or driver safety, maybe that’ll hit home with some folks.”

From Oct. 18 through Oct. 24, Target Zero will host Teen Safe Driver Week throughout the state, and locally in Clark and Skamania counties. Campaigns like this one are designed to involve area partners and create a dialogue with the community. Information as well as education are both part of the process. 

While some may deem the process mundane or repetitive, Target Zero and its partners like State Farm, Driving 101 Driving School and the Battle Ground Police Department, see the dissemination of healthy driving practices as a way to permeate culture. 

In an ongoing teen safety campaign, parents are being asked to pledge involvement in their teen’s life while they learn to drive by enforcing Target Zero’s five rules for safe driving:

  • No cell phone
  • No extra passengers
  • No speeding
  • No alcohol or drugs
  • Buckle up

“From the law enforcement side, we can do both: we can educate and enforce,” said Battle Ground Police Chief, Mike Fort. “[The five rules] are restrictions that are prescribed by law already. Those are the types of things that we would be looking for, to stop drivers. Whether we write them a ticket or simply educate them with a warning, is discretionary and dependent on the situation.”

Target Zero is also seeking to remind parents and youth that Washington state uses a check list of prerequisites in order for a teen driver to progress to their license. Perhaps the most forgotten is the required 50 hours of practice driving with a parent while in the permit phase. 

Nikki Bisconer is the owner and operator of Driving 101 in Brush Prairie, and has been teaching new drivers for 15 years. She says the two most common issues with educating new drivers are distracted driving habits and the lack of 50 hours of practice.

“The more you practice, the better,” Bisconer said. “In just a blink of an eye, they’re going to be in the car all by themselves, and no one proofreading the road for them. It says to practice 50 hours, I think a lot of times, we take shortcuts to not do that, because there’s so much going on or we’re too busy. That’s maybe a good thing about this pandemic, is that we can’t do anything. It’s perfect to go bond with our kids and go practice driving around with them because we have this extra time.”

Both Stephen and Bisconer made mention of the various apps now available that either lock phones when they are in a moving vehicle, or regulate use and log data on illegal use. Many are completely free and can be integrated into the parents phone as well as insurance. 

According to data collected by WTSC in 2016, as many as 60 percent of high school aged drivers reported having rode in a car with a driver who was texting. To make matters worse, in Washington, the chances of a driver aged 16 or 17 being killed in a crash when they have a passenger under the age of 21 with them increases 44 percent per mile driven, according to a 2012 WTSC study. 

“I limited my kids when they drove,” Stephen said. “‘I just need you to drive from point A to point B, we’re not gonna be hanging out in the car and having fun, that’s not what you’re doing. You’re not to that level yet.’ The implications of insurance and not driving well, getting tickets, you’re going to pay for not only with the ticket, but you’re going to pay for it through increased insurance costs. What you’ve done in the past to be a safe driver, that’s going to be indicative to what you pay for insurance.”

Chief Fort confirmed that distracted driving is by far the most common infraction in his agency’s area, and such is the case across the board. His concern is especially high for young drivers, however, since they have even less ability to multitask, he said.

In the coming months, Battle Ground Police hope to add additional staffing to devote an officer solely to traffic safety in the city. The agency’s School Resource Officers are also playing a large role in bringing Target Zero information on to the radar of students.

“There’s kind of a holistic type of approach, really, it’s not one specific thing that we’re doing,” Fort said. “Education is really helpful and it really is the key to what we’re trying to do. Parents paying attention, I would say, is something that is extremely helpful for all the families.”

For more information on Target Zero, it’s community partners and data collected by the WTSC, visit the Young Drivers site, or Target Zero’s information page.