If you are a parent, helping your teenager get their driver’s license is an important rite of passage. While you may appreciate the freedom that comes with having another driver in the family and not having to act as chauffeur for your child’s school and social events, it is natural to have concerns about your teen’s safety behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, the fact is that driver immaturity makes teens car accidents and injuries a common occurrence. To help protect your child on the road, our car accident attorney in Acworth has collected the following information on how teen driving accidents commonly occur, and the steps you can take to help prevent them.
Teen Car Accidents and Injuries
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that motor vehicle accidents are a serious risk for young people aged 16 to 19. More than 220,000 teenagers end up requiring emergency medical care as the result of car accidents and injuries each year in the U.S., while these injuries prove fatal for more than 2,333 others. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teens on this country’s roads and highways, killing as many as six young people a day.
Experience counts behind the wheel, and newly licensed drivers are among those most at risk, with a crash rate three times higher than others in their age group. Lack of driving experience can lead them to underestimate potentially dangerous situations, and to make critical decision errors in response to common hazards, such as changes in road, traffic, or weather conditions. Additional factors the CDC lists that could put your child at risk behind the wheel include:
- Driving at night and on weekends: The risk of car accidents increases for all drivers at nights and on Fridays and Saturday, and these times are when over half of all teen traffic deaths occur.
- Driving under the influence: Nearly 20 percent of all teens involved in fatal motor vehicle collisions had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, which is over the legal limit for adults.
- Speeding and going too fast for conditions: The CDC states that teens are more likely to engage in speeding and to allow shorter headways between them and other drivers.
- Not wearing a seat belt: Teens have the lowest rate for seat belt usage of all drivers, and roughly half fail to use seat belts regularly. This puts them at risk when they are the driver, as well as when traveling as a passenger in another teen’s vehicle.
Distracted Driving and Teens
In addition to lack of experience and reckless driving behaviors such as speeding and driving under the influence, distracted driving is one of the most common causes of car accidents and injuries among teens. In a comprehensive study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) of teen driving accidents, researchers reviewed in-vehicle recorders to analyze the seconds leading up to when a crash occurred. They found that distractions were a factor in roughly six out of 10 cases, more than four times the incidence rate on police reports.
Distracted driving may involve complex visual, manual, and cognitive tasks such as sending texts or taking pictures behind the wheel, or it may be something as simple as changing a radio station or reaching for something beside you on the passenger seat. AAA reports that the most common types of driving distractions and the percentage of fatal teen car accidents they were responsible for include:
- Interacting with other passengers: 15 percent;
- Using cell phones behind the wheel: 12 percent;
- Looking at something in the vehicle: 10 percent;
- Looking at something outside the vehicle: nine percent;
- Singing along with and ‘dancing’ to music: eight percent;
- Personal grooming, such as adjusting hair or applying makeup: six percent.
AAA accident research shows that driver distractions diverted attention from the road for roughly four of the six seconds prior to crashes. As a result, the driver involved had little time to slam on their brakes or slow their speed, a factor which contributed to the fatal nature of these collisions.
Protecting Your Teen Against Car Accidents and Injuries
SaferCar.gov, a website operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help raise awareness and decrease the likelihood of car accidents and injuries, recommends parents talk to their teens about the dangers of distracted driving and other reckless behaviors before their child gets their license.
In addition to giving them the facts on teen driving accidents, parents should model responsible driving behavior themselves, such as insisting seat belts be worn at all times, refraining from using cellphones, and obeying all traffic rules and regulations. Parents should also spell out the rules they want their child to obey, which include:
- No cell phones;
- No speeding;
- No alcohol; and
- Always buckle up.
The NHTSA recommends closely monitoring young drivers, limiting their passengers, and drafting a contract outlining the above road rules and the consequences if they are not obeyed. Consumer Reports advises that parents can also opt to have a tracking device installed on their vehicle, which uses GPS to monitor location, speed, and brake time when their teen is behind the wheel. In addition, there are also cellphone apps which allow you to temporarily disable functions that are likely to tempt your teen driver, such as texting or receiving emails.