Is Your Teen Safe on the Road?

Drivers License

Drivers License (Photo credit: phossil)

If your teenager just got their license and is enthusiastically asking you to borrow your Ford to drive to a friend’s house, you may want to think twice before handing over the Ford’s keys. Recent research has shown just how dangerous driving really is for green teenage drivers. In fact, motor vehicle crashes remain the number one cause of death for adolescence. Whether your teen is borrowing the keys to your Ford truck or your tiny Honda, the numbers remain the same; between 5,000 and 6,000 teens are killed every year in America from motor vehicle crashes. No other kind of hazard comes close to claiming as many teenage lives, including homicides and suicides.

Researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have held nothing back as they delved into teenage crashes, the statistics around them, and the most common causes. They have found that the greatest lifetime chance of crashing occurs in the first 6 months after licensure. One of the main causes of teenage automobile accidents was distractions. Today’s teenager’s deal with tweets, Facebook updates and a constant stream of text messages and the result can be fatal. In 2010, 11 percent of 15-19-year-old drivers that died in car crashes were distracted while driving.

The group of researchers called TeenDriverSource from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, found that the overwhelming majority, 75%, of serious teen driver crashes are due to critical errors; the three most common errors accounting for nearly half of crashes. The first error was a lack of scanning that is needed to detect and respond to hazards. Teenagers evidently do not deal well with traffic because they forget to check behind their vehicle and on both sides of the car. The second most common error that was the cause of most teenage accidents was going too fast for road conditions. Teenagers that drove too fast to respond to other drivers successfully or to navigate curves or slippery spots on the road often ended up in a car accident. The third most common error was being distracted by something inside or outside of the vehicle. Teens often do not realize the amount of constant attention it takes to be at the wheel safely.

As far as other factors go, the study found that dealing with environmental conditions such as poor weather, vehicle malfunction, aggressive driving, or physical impairments such as drowsy driving were not primary factors in most teenage accidents. Whether teens were driving a Toyota van or a Ford truck, the fatal crash rate for drivers ages 16 to 19, based on miles driven, is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 69. Two factors that have proven detrimental to many teenage drivers are other teenage passengers in the car and cell phones. Sadly, statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have found that teenage drivers and passengers are among the least likely to wear their seat belts; the age group that needs protection for automobile accidents the most are the least likely to have that protection because they do not wear their seat belts. In 2010, 54 % or 1,532 of the 2,814 occupants of passenger vehicles age 16 to 20 who were killed in crashes were not buckled up.

Dealing with the reality of teenage fatalities due to car accidents is staggering; however, educating our teens about proper vehicle use can save lives. Parents who provide good examples to their children on how to drive safely will help their children do so as well. Another important factor in keeping teenagers safe is to speak with them about driving, not using a cell phone while in the car, and go over rules regarding friends in the vehicle with them.

About the Author

Stephanie McNaught is a writer for Fusion 360, an advertising agency in Utah that provides SEO and content marketing for Henry Day Ford.

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