Is the Incidence of Traffic-Related Fatalities Among Teens Rising?
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) collects data on car accident fatalities each year from California and the rest of the United States. This data is compiled in order to understand trends in car accident deaths, which can then be used for policy recommendations and to alert drivers of potential risks, explains a California car accident lawyer.
Last February, GHSA announced that they had assembled preliminary data on the number of fatalities that occurred during the first six months of 2012. They focused their report on the number of fatal accidents in which drivers aged 16 and 17 were killed. Tracking teen car accident deaths is important since auto accidents are the leading cause of fatalities for young people between the ages of 15 and 20.
According to the information from the GHSA report, 2012 was the second year in a row that the number of teen fatalities increased when compared to the prior data. From 2011 to 2012, the number of deaths increased significantly, with 19 percent more young drivers dying over the first half of 2012 than were killed during the same time period in 2011.
The GHSA also broke the data down by state. While they found that the number of teens who died in California declined from six in 2011 to four in 2012, they cautioned that any variation in individual states should not be considered to relate in a systematic way to policy differences since the number of deaths is small and thus substantial variations can occur from year to year.
The important information from the data, therefore, can be gleaned by considering the whole picture. What this picture revealed is that the number of teen fatalities, on the whole, is trending upward. GHSA attributes this increase to an improving economy, which allows for more teens to drive. The increase in the number of teen deaths may also be explained by the fact that fewer states have been strengthening or improving graduated driver licensing systems in recent years.
Preventing Teen Car Accident Deaths
Any data indicating an increase in teen car accident deaths should raise great alarm for parents, especially with auto accidents already the top cause of death for teenagers. Data also indicates that teens ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a car wreck than adults.
Fortunately, a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study indicates that parents can have a significant impact on whether their teens drive safely or not. The study revealed that parental behavior behind the wheel makes the biggest difference, since teens tend to mimic what they see. However, talking to teens can also be helpful in minimizing the dangers of a crash occurring.
Parents who wish to talk to their kids about being safer drivers should focus on some key driving behaviors that tend to put teens at the greatest risk of being involved in a crash:
• Distracted driving. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute indicated that 26 percent of teen drivers send or read texts every time they drive. A texting driver is 23 times as likely to crash as a non-texting driver. Further, Distraction.gov also reports that 11 percent of fatal car wrecks involving drivers ages 20 and younger involved driver distraction.
• Drowsy driving. According to a CDC survey of more than 147,000 drivers, 4.9 percent of respondents ages 18-24 said they had fallen asleep behind the wheel one or more times in the prior month, as compared with an average of 4.2 percent of all drivers who admitted to dozing off. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also discovered in their study that teenagers pull over and rest when tired less frequently than adult drivers do.
• Drunk driving. According to The Century Council, there were 94 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2010 involving drivers under 21.
• Speeding. Responding to an Allstate Survey, 17 percent of teen drivers described speeding as something that was fun. A full 55 percent of responding teens said that they had driven 10 or more miles over the posted limit.
Parents should stress that these behaviors are dangerous and forbidden. Parents may also wish to enter into a parent-teen driving agreement to keep their children safe. The American Automobile Association in California makes an agreement available on their website that parents can use with their children.
By having an honest conversation with your children, modeling good behavior, requiring them to sign the contract and supervising their driving, parents can help to protect their children from a crash.
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