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What is the Number One Killer of American Teenagers?

Driving & Teen Deaths
Teen Highway Deaths

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.

This blog has focused on texting and driving and how cell phone use steals attention away from the driver. Many states regulate or even ban texting and cell phone use while driving.

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.

2 thoughts on “What is the Number One Killer of American Teenagers?”

  1. My sister may be getting a divorce and my parents want to make sure that assets aren’t taken from our family. Thanks for letting me know that my parents can protect themselves with trust provisions. They will be glad to hear the benefits and they will probably be looking for the right services soon.

    1. The article focused on car accidents and the tragedies involved with young drivers. Your parents need to make an appointment with an attorney who does estate planning ASAP. My office offers such services and they should call for a free consultation.

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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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