It's National Teen Driving week, which the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles says is the perfect time to talk to teens about safe driving habits and the rules of the road.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens 15 to 18 years old in the United States.
“Being a young driver and being on the road, I’m very cautious when it comes to police officers and stuff like that. I make sure I just put my phone away,” Chace Petgrave said.
16 and 17-year-olds can’t use their cell phones, even if it’s hands-free while driving.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
“I know to just stay away from it because it’s never that serious. I always focus on the bigger picture,” Petgrave said.
Petgrave lost a friend this summer who was texting and driving. Teen fatalities went up to 19 in 2020 during COVID-19. Crashes and fatalities are down so far this year.
“Say I abandoned the rules with my mom, she would definitely take away my car without hesitation, but also I know there are penalties and stuff like that,” Petgrave said.
They also can’t have their friends with them in the car for at least the first year they have their license.
“Definitely a bit challenging when your friends are like 'let’s go do this or can you give me a ride home?' or like 'why don’t go here and you can drive us. Let’s go to the beach.' That definitely was a theme over the summer,” Madison Stevenson of Ledyard said.
But Stevenson is only able to drive her siblings.
“Where we try to tell even parents to have those conversations with their children in regards to why it’s so important to buckle up, why it’s so important to get rid of that cell phone, put it down. Don’t bring it with you and obey the rules of the road,” Deputy DMV Commissioner Tony Guerrera said.
Guerrera helped pass stricter laws for 16 and 17-year-old drivers.
“That car can be used as a weapon almost and if you don’t understand how to use it, you could hurt yourself or hurt someone else and that is why we put those laws into place,” Guerrera said.
The same stricter laws don’t apply when you turn 18, but for many, driving can’t wait.
“It’s a sense of freedom. I can go do what I need to do, I can go to the library, I can go to the grocery store, I can get around,” Martine Remy of Manchester, who has her learners permit, said.