With National Teen Driver Safety Week underway, Oklahomans can be thankful that the number of accidents involving teen drivers has plummeted since the adoption of a graduated driver license law in 2005, according to Senate author Debbe Leftwich.

Statistics from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office show that in 2006, there were 444 fewer teen accidents than in the previous year, and nine fewer fatal wrecks.

“The numbers speak for themselves, Leftwich said. “I'm very pleased that this law has proven effective in keeping our children and families safer. Still, we need to continue improving these figures and emphasizing safe driving for teens.

Under the provisions of the law, all new drivers under the age of 18 are required to have a graduated driver license, which limits the hours a student can drive on the road. Additionally, the law restricts the number and age of passengers allowed in a vehicle with a teenage driver. The restrictions are removed after one year if the student maintains a clean driving record.

“We can certainly point to the law as having had a positive impact on teen driving safety, but parents can also have a positive impact by getting involved, Leftwich said. “In addition to explaining the fundamentals of safe driving, parents can provide a positive role model for children behind the wheel.

Running from Oct. 15 through Oct. 20, the annual National Teen Driver Safety Week encourages parents to improve their teens' driving skills by becoming more involved and establishing rules and conditions for driving. In September, Congress approved a resolution to establish Teen Driver Safety Week in response to statistics showing vehicle crashes to be the leading cause of death among 15- to 20- year olds.

“We need to continue giving our teens the proper guidance and skills to make good decisions behind the wheel, Leftwich said. “I want to encourage all parents to ensure their children are adequately prepared to drive. Things such as supervised driving sessions and the establishment of conditions for driving can go a long way toward preventing accidents.