AUGUSTA – Police announced Wednesday that when they find teen drivers involved in risky behavior – from speeding to running a red light to drinking – they will call the parents. This new program is trying to reduce unsafe driving behavior because teen drivers are three to four times more likely to be involved in crashes than other drivers, police said.

Studies show that early intervention and restrictions by parents for something like speeding, and using alcohol can help ward off every parent’s nightmare: a knock on the door at 2 in the morning by police telling them their son or daughter is dead, said Maine State Police Maj. Randall Nichols on Wednesday

The new statewide effort, using the slogan “Your Parents Will be the First to Know,” is a strong, caring message to teens “that police and their parents will be talking, Nichols said. “Studies clearly show that when parents don’t limit when and where and how frequently their teens can drive, traffic violations and crashes increase.”

The program is being adopted by municipal, county and state police. Officers won’t be mandated to call parents, it’s more of a new way of doing business, Nichols said during an outdoor news conference, surrounded by uniformed officers and police cars from Fort Kent to Kittery.

‘If I were the parent’

Because so many police agencies are endorsing the idea, more officers will be calling homes, he said. Police are being advised to use the following judgment to determine if they should call: “If I were the parent, would I want to know?” Nichols said.

The program, called SAFEGuard, is geared to contact parents of 16- and 17-year-olds, and 18-year-olds living with parents, police said.

In addition to unsafe driving behavior, police will call parents about underage drinking and parties.

“We had an instance in Greene a couple of months ago where one of our troopers and some Androscoggin County deputies went to a loud party complaint and found about 70 minors drinking,” Nichols said.

Trooper Daniel Hanson and deputies called parents and told them to come pick up their kids, often using the kids’ own cell phones, Nichols said. “They waited until every parent got there before releasing them. That’s the type of initiative we’re looking for. That’s consistent with the program.”

Androscoggin County Sheriff Deputy Randy Williams said Wednesday he likes the statewide effort to call parents. “Ninety percent of the time, parents want to know what’s going on in their child’s life,” Williams said.

Recently he pulled a teen over for driving 30 miles per hour above the limit. He gave the boy a citation and called his parent. That parent was grateful, Williams said.

In Maine last year, 34 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes, resulting in 38 deaths. Of those 38 deaths, 18 were teen drivers and eight were teen passengers. Speeding and inexperience were primary factors, police said. So far this year, 11 teen drivers have been involved in fatal crashes, resulting in 12 deaths. Eleven of those were teens, police said.

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