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New teen drivers 6X as likely to be in a deadly car crash

August 25, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

Study finds distracted driving, speeding, not buckling up contribute to fatal motor vehicle crashes among new teen drivers. Parents, you’re the key to safer teen drivers

New teen drivers

Did your teen take driver’s ed this summer? Knowing how to drive and how to get from here to there does not translate into safe teen drivers. A recent study puts new teen drivers at up to 6 times likelier to be involved in a fatal car crash.

The reason why may surprise you.

Part of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s new report, “Rates of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries, and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age,” looks at car crash rates per mile driven for all drivers. For every mile on the road, drivers ages 16-17 years old are:

  • 9 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a car crash
  • 6 times as likely as drivers 18 and older to be involved in a fatal car crash
  • 5 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a car crash
  • 2 times as likely as drivers 30-59 to be involved in a fatal car crash

Further, the AAA Foundation says that over the past five years, during the three-month period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, more than 1,600 people were killed in car crashes involving inexperienced, new teen drivers.

Meanwhile, the number of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes increased more than 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, using the latest data available.

What’s contributing to deadly crashes among new teen drivers?

Three factors that commonly result in deadly automobile accidents for teen drivers have nothing to do with how to operate a car or how to get from one place to another. Instead, the factors boil down to driving judgment. The key contributors to higher fatality rates for new teen drivers are:

  • Distracted driving: The AAA Foundation says distracted driving plays a role in nearly 6 out of 10 teen driver crashes and four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.
  • Not using a seat belt: In 2015, the latest data available, 60 percent of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt.
  • Speeding: This is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. When the AAA Foundation surveyed driving instructors, speeding was cited as one of the top three mistakes teens make when learning to drive.

What can I do to make sure my new teen driver is a safer driver?

The NHTSA says that in 2015, 1,972 teen passenger vehicle drivers were involved in fatal crashes, with an estimated 99,000 injured. But an NHTSA survey showed that only 25% of parents have had a serious talk with their children about the key components of safe driving.

So the most essential things you as a parent can do to lessen your new teen driver’s chances of getting into a fatal accident are to lead by example and to talk with him or her about the dangers of driving.

This includes discussing:

  • Drinking and driving: Start with yourself and set a good example by not driving after drinking. Remind your teen that drinking before the age of 21 is illegal, and booze and driving should never mix.
  • Buckling up: They may have learned this as kids, but it always helps to remind your teen it’s important to buckle up on every trip, even the short ones. This is another one where you can lead by example.
  • No cellphones and texting while driving: The science is increasingly clear that driving while distracted by a cellphone may be even more dangerous than driving drunk. Further, Kelsey’s Law currently bans teen drivers in Michigan with a Level 1 or Level 2 graduated license from using a phone while driving. Tell your teen the phone is off limits when they’re behind the wheel, and refrain from doing so yourself.
  • Other forms of distracted driving: Grooming, eating, drinking hot beverages and fumbling with the radio take drivers’ hands and attention from the wheel and the road. Washington state’s newly enacted law makes doing these things a secondary offense.
  • Speeding: Avoid the lead foot. Drive the speed limit and require your teen to do the same. Explain that every time your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples.
  • Having no more than one passenger: Don’t allow your teen to drive with more than one passenger at a time. Statistics show that the more passengers in the car when a teen is driving, the higher the likelihood of a car crash.

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