Maryland State Police are using a new enforcement weapon in their efforts to help teenagers become safe drivers — parents.
Under a new policy announced yesterday, troopers will contact the parents and guardians of teenage drivers stopped for traffic violations — including motor vehicle infractions, violations of seat-belt or provisional-license regulations, or fault in a collision, state police said.
Teenager drivers will have to provide troopers with the names of their parents and contact information, and will be told their parent or guardian will be notified.
“This is a unique effort to keep teen drivers alive and help make them safe drivers,” Col. Edward T. Norris said. “We believe parents of teen drivers will be effective partners with us in our efforts to address the fact that the leading cause of death among 16- to 20-year-olds is motor vehicle crashes,” Col. Norris said.
The new policy comes five years after a three-car crash that killed two Montgomery Blair High School students, including the driver, injured six other students and killed 40-year-old handyman John Francis Wert of Rockville, who was driving a pickup truck.
The July 14, 1998, accident killed Matthew Waymon and Irn Sherwin Williams, 16-year-old juniors. The car that caused the accident on East-West Highway in Chevy Chase was driven by Michael Shoenfeld, 16, of Silver Spring, and carried five passengers, all students at Montgomery Blair. The driver and passengers in the third car were not seriously hurt.
After the crash, Blair Principal Phillip F. Gainous sent letters to parents urging them to put their children on the school buses, saying “unless your kid needs to drive, don’t let them drive.”
Teen drivers at the school said yesterday they are open to the new policy, which went into effect Saturday.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Maria Luckynova, a senior.
“Most teens don’t pay for their automotive experience. Parents are the ones paying for the cars and insurance, so they should know what they’re paying for. [The parents] are the ones responsible and liable if their kid has an accident, so they should know what’s going on,” the 17-year-old said.
Jennifer Chon, 17 and a senior said, “I’ve never been pulled over, so it wouldn’t affect me personally. But I guess it’s cool for the police to keep track of drivers that might be dangerous.”
When a juvenile is cited, troopers will inform the duty officer at the barracks, who will attempt to contact the parents or guardian. If they fail to make contact after 24 hours, a letter will be sent to the parents or guardian.
Barracks commanders also will track all motor vehicle collisions involving juveniles on a monthly basis, which authorities said will help determine trouble spots for enforcement.
“We hope that by involving parents in our enforcement and education efforts, they will provide additional supervision and instruction for their children that will help us make our roads safer,” said Col. Norris, who came up with the idea.
“Colonel Norris realized that with all of the crashes involving teens, issuing citations is not enough,” said Cpl. Rob Moroney, spokesman for the Maryland State Police.
Ninety persons under the age of 18 died on Maryland roads in 2001 and 2002, and thousands more were injured.
“The [policy] was started in a statewide effort to educate young drivers and parents on the dangers of inappropriate driving,” Cpl. Moroney said.
“We’re not talking about [calling parents] for drivers having a taillight out or anything like that, but rather moving violations such as speeding, illegal lane changes and aggressive driving,” he said.