CT Children’s Advocates: Safe Driving Instruction Courses

Below is the testimony of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to the Transportation Committee regarding HB 5680, An Act Concerning Parent Attendance at Safe Driving Instruction Courses.

Man holding car keys

My name is Kevin Borrup, Associate Director, Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. I am an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. I am submitting this testimony in opposition to the proposed bill which would allow some parents of prospective teen drivers to skip the mandatory two-hour parent/teen safe driving class.

Before commenting on the bill, I want to provide you with some background about Connecticut’s only hospital dedicated exclusively to children. Connecticut Children’s is a nationally recognized, 187-bed not-for-profit children’s hospital serving as the primary pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University, as well as a research partner of The Jackson Laboratory.

Families across the region rely on our ability to deliver the highest level of care. When another hospital is unable to provide what a child requires, we are ready to help. Last year, 3,906 patients required a transfer to Connecticut Children’s from another hospital in order to obtain the high level of specialized pediatric care they needed.

Through our Office for Community Child Health, Connecticut Children’s ensures that families have access to a comprehensive system of community programs and services that supports them in promoting their children’s optimal healthy development. Our programs tackle critical contemporary issues in children’s day to day lives that can adversely affect their health and development including asthma, home hazards, domestic violence, teen driving safety, teen suicide prevention, and sexually transmitted diseases. Visit our Advancing Kids blog at https://advancingkids.org/.

The mission of the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s is to reduce injury and violence among Connecticut residents. To accomplish this mission, we implement four core activities: research, education and training, community outreach programs, and policy/advocacy. Teen driving safety has been a long held priority for our center.

Connecticut has made great strides in reducing teen motor vehicle injuries and deaths through public policy decisions that have served to reduce the risk for teens. The last major upgrade to Connecticut’s graduated driver licensing law was in 2008 when the mandatory two-hour parent class came into effect.

Our hospital, the driver training schools, and advocacy groups all support keeping those 2008 upgrades to the law intact. This bill would serve to weaken a very important aspect of the law which ensures that teens and parents are aware of the laws and their responsibilities. When parents have the “driving” talk and stay active in their child’s driver training, and post-licensing driving, teens are safer. Should this bill move forward, we are endorsing a view that the safety of a child is less important than ensuring that parents do not experience an inconvenience.

And, what do parents say about this class? Parents agree that attending this class is worthwhile with 85% agreeing that the course was excellent or good, and 90% agreeing that the class helped them as a coach of their teen.*

This bill is only about the convenience, or inconvenience, that is prioritized by some parents over safety. My response: let’s put safety first and make sure that every teen who goes through this process has the attention of their parent. It matters. Thank you for your consideration of our position.

* from a study by Neil Chaudhary of Preusser Research Group in 2010 and a study of driving schools conducted by Kevin Borrup of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in 2014.