Drivers' parents get letters

Sheriff's Office provides details of motor vehicle violations


Parents of four teenage drivers have received letters from the Carroll County sheriff this month with details of their children's motor vehicle violations. Not one parent has inquired about the citations, most of which were for dangerous driving, officials said.

The letter, which begins: "In the interest of public safety and that of your child," names the driver and gives the time, location and any pertinent details of the violation.

"I was prepared for parents to call to ask for circumstances of the stop," said Maj. Thomas H. Long, a Sheriff's Department spokesman and chief of the field services bureau. "I hoped parents would read the letter and see the need for some type of corrective action."

The Sheriff's Office implemented the program Nov. 1, after crafting a policy based on an effort initiated by the Maryland State Police. Parental notification might reduce accidents caused by the potentially "deadly combination" of youth and inexperience, officials said. The effort targets 16- and 17-year-olds.

Noting the State Highway Administration's Speed Kills campaign, Long said, "These speeds, coupled with inexperience and the added vigilance required with nighttime driving, especially now with wildlife on the roads, are a deadly combination for our youth.

"It is a disaster waiting to happen," he said.

All the violations, referred to in the letters, occurred at night.

One youth was cited for spinning wheels and excessive noise. Two others were involved in significant speeding incidents, Long said. One 16-year-old was traveling 82 mph in a 50 mph zone near Mount Airy, on a stretch of road with a high incidence of accidents.

The other speeder was a 17-year-old, found driving at 85 mph in a 55 mph zone near Manchester. The fourth violation last weekend involved a 17-year-old who did not have the vehicle's registration available for the officer.

Fines for speeding can be as much as $530 per violation, but some youths have the means to pay the fine without informing a parent, Long said.

Parents can remain unaware, until the violation is reflected in their insurance rates. The charge goes to traffic court and the results are relayed to the Motor Vehicle Administration, which is monitored by the insurance companies.

The Sheriff's Office would allow parents to speak to the deputy who wrote the citation, Long said.

"We want parents to take action to ensure the future of the family," he said.

Prompted by 90 deaths of teens younger than 18 in 2001 and 2002, the Maryland State Police has for the past two years notified the parents of drivers younger than 18 who are ticketed for moving violations and motor vehicle infractions, such as seat belt violations, accidents in which they are at fault and violations of provisional licenses, said Sgt. Rob Moroney, a state police spokesman.

The state trooper issuing the citation is to immediately notify the barracks duty officer, who is to attempt to call the parent or guardian, Moroney said. Failure to make contact results in a form letter signed by the barracks commander.

Letters would go out on "any moving violation: speeding, running a stop sign, recklessness - anything that would generate points on your license," Moroney said. Hundreds of such notifications have been made statewide. Otherwise, he said, parents might not find out - until their insurance rates increase.

"Instead of six, nine months later finding out that their juvenile has been stopped ... parents can intervene earlier," Moroney said.

In Carroll, the letter to parents expands on the details.

"We narrow down for parents where and when the incident occurred," Long said. "Parents will know about speeding in the nighttime hours."

The letter says, "This notification is provided solely for your information in an effort to encourage your participation in the correction of inappropriate driving behaviors."

"I don't understand why parents have not called," Long said.

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