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INFORMATIONAL LETTER NO.:   3  

POLICY CODE:   EEB

 

To:                    Superintendents of Schools, School Health Coordinators, and Driver Education Instructors

From:                Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

Date:                 July 15, 2005

Subject:             SAFEGuard: A Police – Parent Partnership to Keep Our Teens Safe

            In 2004, there were 180 fatal highway crashes resulting in 196 fatalities in Maine.  Thirty-four teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes and 38 fatalities resulted.

            A high rate of teen involvement in fatal highway crashes is not unique to Maine.   National data shows that 16 and 17 year-old drivers have the highest vehicle crash rate of any age group.   According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “a growing body of research indicates that close parental management of teen drivers can lead to less risky driving behavior, fewer traffic tickets and fewer crashes.”

            The Maine State Police, the Maine Chiefs of Police Association and the Maine Sheriffs Association are in the process of rolling out a new program designed to reduce teen involvement in high risk behavior on Maine’s highways.   The program, called SAFEGuard, is based on a philosophy that promotes communication and cooperation between law enforcement officers and parents to trigger intervention strategies with teen drivers whenever they are observed participating in high risk behavior while operating a motor vehicle (e.g., speeding, aggressive driving, alcohol/drugs, failing to use seat belts).

            Maine’s law enforcement community feels strongly that early intervention is a key action step to reducing the frequency of highway fatalities involving teen drivers.   Police officers are often in a position to detect potentially unsafe driving at an early and manageable stage, before a crash happens.   Providing timely information to parents about law enforcement contacts with teen drivers provides the parents an opportunity to set expectations and limits, and may greatly reduce the likelihood of the teen driver continuing the risky behavior that ultimately will lead to a crash.   The program moves the parent from the position of being the last to know to the front of the communication channel.

            This program is an outgrowth of the participation of law enforcement in the Governor’s Task Force on Highway Safety Improvement and represents collaboration between multiple state, county and local agencies including the Department of Education.

I urge you to consider this program as a part of the overall health and life skills education for your teen students.   It represents another way in which we can support and encourage safe student travel.

            If you have any questions regarding the SAFEGuard program, please contact Major Randall Nichols of the Maine State Police by phone at 207-624-7203 or email at randall.t.nichols@maine.gov or your local law enforcement agency.