The number one cause of death to teenagers in the United States is car accidents. Several studies arrive at the same conclusion.
A report funded by General Motors reveals that 2,439 teenagers died in auto accidents on U.S. Highways in 2012. Just over one-half of the teens killed in those accidents were driving, 44% were passengers. Over one half were not wearing seat belts.
That study did not cite texting or talking on the cell phone as causes. But 40% of the teens polled admitted to being in a car driven by another teen either texting or talking on the phone while driving.
Reasons Behind High Teen Highway Deaths
The Centers for Disease Control pointed to major factors placing teen drivers at risk. Among the top reasons:
- Teens more likely to underestimate dangers while driving.
- Teens more likely than older drivers to speed and tailgate.
- Among male drivers between 15-20 years old involved in fatal accidents, 37% were speeding and 25% had been drinking.
- Teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use.
When and How do Teen Traffic Fatalities Happen
Night driving and having passengers in the car contribute heavily to teen highway deaths according to the Insurance Information Institute. More motor vehicle crashes involving teens happen late in the day and at night than at other times. Research also indicates teens have a greater chance of getting in a motor vehicle accident if other teens are present in the vehicle.
Teen drivers crash more often during the first six months after obtaining drivers licenses. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found young, novice drivers are significantly over represented in fatal crashes, especially those between 16 and 17. NHTSA also finds teenagers at far higher risk of death in alcohol-related accidents than other age groups, regardless of the fact they’re below the legal drinking age in all 50 states.
How to Stop Teen Highway Deaths
Spitting out statistics isn’t enough. Young people, parents and the schools face devastation when a friend or classmate is killed. But it happens every year.
Lecturing young drivers and giving them materials loaded with facts like those above can often be forgotten or glossed over as other passions take over
The most effective presentation I’ve ever seen on the subject was by a Manchester, NH business owner who became a paraplegic after a night of drinking during his college years when he drove his car into a utility pole. He retold his experience in schools and churches, banging the wheels of his wheelchair, explaining he would spend the rest of his years in the chair. Until he passed away people came up to him and explained that he spoke at their school and they never forgot it.
The challenge facing educators, parents, young people and others is to find ways like that to forever forge thoughts like that into impressionable young minds.
G.M. study, Teens in Cars.
Centers for Disease Control Statistics, Teen Drivers.
Insurance Information Institute, Teen Drivers.
NHTSA, Young Drivers & Safety.