Learning to drive is one of life’s milestones. Parents can serve an important role by encouraging teen driver safety throughout the year.
Despite all of the recent and focused media attention devoted to making us all aware of the potential risks to younger people contracting the H1N1 virus, or Swine Flu, the Center for Disease Control also reminds us that this is not the greatest threat facing today’s teenagers.
Statistics are a good place to start, since they give us a picture of what’s happening. I have included a few sobering facts below from NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers.
- In 2001, 5,341 teens were killed in passenger vehicles involved in motor vehicle crashes. Two thirds of those killed were not buckled up.
- When driver fatality rates are calculated on the basis of estimated annual travel, teen drivers (16 to 19 years old) have a fatality rate that is about four times higher than the fatality rate among drivers 25 through 69 years old.
- In 2001, 3,608 drivers 15 to 20 years old were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and an additional 337,000 were injured.
- Young drivers (16-20) were involved in 7,598 fatal crashes in 2001.
- In the last decade, over 68,000 teens have died in car crashes.
- Sixty-five percent of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving.
- In 2001, 26% of fatally injured teen drivers (16-20 years old) had high blood alcohol concentrations (0.08 percent or more), even though all were under the minimum legal drinking age and are not legally permitted to purchase alcohol.
- Two out of three teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes are males.
The media coverage of the expected flu outbreak continually reminds us of the precautionary measures that can be taken to minimize exposure to the risk of contracting the disease. Being aware the risks that we also encounter everyday on our highways and city streets, and being reminded that there are specific steps to be taken can also help to prevent or minimize the exposure to the terrible tragedies that the above statistics illustrate.
Greater risk exposure: Teens often drive at night with other teens in the vehicle, factors that increase crash risk.
Teen drivers are different from other drivers, and their crash experience is different. Compared to other drivers, a higher proportion of teenagers are responsible for their fatal crashes because of their own driving errors:
- A larger percentage of fatal crashes involving teenage drivers are single-vehicle crashes compared to those involving other drivers. In this type of fatal crash, the vehicle usually leaves the road and overturns or hits a roadside object such as a tree or a pole.
- In general, a smaller percentage of teens wear their seat belts compared to other drivers.
- A larger proportion of teen fatal crashes involve speeding, or going too fast for road conditions, compared to other drivers.
- More teen fatal crashes occur when passengers, usually other teenagers are in the car than do crashes involving other drivers. Two out of three teens who suffer fatal injuries, are passengers in vehicles driven by other teenagers.
To assist parents and younger drivers be aware of the greater risk of injuries AAA has come out with a brochure to help parents choose a qualified driving school. The brochure, called, “Choosing a Driving School…A Guide for Beginning Drivers,” can be ordered for free by contacting your local AAA club or clicking on the link above.