The number of fatal crashes involving teen drivers statewide fell from nine in 2010 to four in 2011, continuing a downward trend since tougher laws for 16- and 17-year-old drivers were put in place four years ago, according to a study released Tuesday by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
One teen driver, Jacqueline Brice, a 16-year-old girl from Ridgefield, was killed in 2011, and three others were involved in fatal crashes, according to the report, which used the most recent statistics available from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
Two teen drivers were killed in crashes in 2010. In 2007, a year before the laws were put in place, seven teen drivers were killed, and in 2004, 11 were killed.
There has been a 34 percent drop in crashes involving teens in Connecticut, compared to a national average drop of 26 percent.
"We are a national leader in teen safe driving, and we will continue to build on our excellent work," said Melody A. Currey, the DMV commissioner. "This report shows the continued progress we are making thanks to the dedication of parents, teens and so many others around the state who share our goal of making the roads safe for everyone and preventing teen crashes and fatalities."
The DMV report shows convictions for traffic infractions and for breaking the graduated driver's licensing laws -- which include passenger restrictions, a curfew, mandatory license suspension for violations and a ban on both handheld and hands-free cellphone usage -- dropped slightly in 2012, compared to 2011, but didn't show the same steep falls as previous years.
Safety advocates and state officials say that while more work is needed, the continued decline in fatal crashes involving teens shows the laws are making a difference and are being enforced.
But a statewide survey of parents conducted this spring for the DMV by Trumbull-based Preusser Research Group shows more outreach to parents about the laws is necessary for them to be effective.
Parents of teen drivers are required to attend a course to learn about the laws while their children go through the process to get a license.
The majority of parents surveyed said the laws are effective in reducing teen crashes and deaths, but almost half said they were "somewhat" effective, rather than "extremely" or "very effective."
The survey also showed that parents are confused about passenger restrictions, which have changed several times since they were put in place in 2008; they are generally not aware of a mandatory 48-hour license suspension that comes when the curfew or passenger restrictions are violated or after a serious moving violation.
The DMV said that law was a "centerpiece" of the 2008 bill and said it is unclear whether the lack of awareness is because police aren't applying the penalty or because parents aren't learning about it.
"It is obvious that if parents are to effectively carry out their role in enforcing GDL rules, understanding their rationale, and supplementing them where they think necessary, they need to know the rules," according to the report, written by DMV spokesman William Seymour. "Most respondents reported that Connecticut's DMV and driving schools did well on information delivery, but there were many suggestions for improvements."
Those suggestions included improving the DMV's teen driving website, providing parents a booklet detailing the laws and their responsibilities, more advertising promoting the laws and a hotline for parents who have questions about the laws.
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