Distracted driving crashes accounted for 3,154 deaths in 2013, according to Distraction.gov. One of the biggest demographics affected by auto accidents, traumatic brain injuries, and fatalities? Teens. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for American teenagers, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Coincidence? Hardly. The young and invincible teens of our nation are among the most likely drivers to use their phones behind the wheel, whether they’re talking, texting, or even taking selfies. And summertime especially is one of the most dangerous times of the year for teen drivers.
Nearly 400 teens die in traffic accidents during each of the summer months. The time from Memorial Day to Labor Day has been labeled as “The 100 Deadliest Days.” Beginning with prom and graduation and the celebrations that surround such milestones, the start of summer vacation means weeks of teens driving to and from their jobs, their friends’ homes, hangouts, and parties, day and night. Fatal crashes for 16-year-old drivers are nearly double that of daytime crash rates.
Dangerous Teen Driving Statistics
Teen drivers are dangerous on roadways for many reasons, some of which include:
- Inexperience. Let’s face it, teens are new drivers, no matter how much practice they’ve gotten in the driver’s seat with an adult by their side. Their ability to make quick, smart decisions and to instinctively know the rules of the road are not finely honed.
- Overconfidence. Plenty of teens consider themselves infallible. But teens are also known for making poor decisions when driving. Speeding, careless driving, reckless driving, and failing to yield are some of the most hazardous behaviors leading to fatal auto accidents involving teens.
- Distraction. It used to be that a tape deck and a few friends in the car were the biggest distractions for teen drivers. Now smartphones have added an even more dangerous element to the mix. A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, and 20 percent of teens (and 10 percent of parents) have admitted to having extended, multi-message text conversations while driving.
- Alcohol. Intoxication has long been the biggest cause of fatal car accidents, and the epidemic has not waned. Combine this with other bad habits and disaster is almost certain: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that low seat belt use is one of the main reasons that the fatality and injury rates of teen drivers and their passengers remain so high.
Keeping Teen Drivers Safe
Teens still need the guidance of their parents, and driving is one of the biggest areas where parental supervision is crucial. Talk to your teens about driving safety and about making smart driving choices, including whether or not to get in the car with another teen driver. And don’t hesitate to set strict ground rules about what is and is not allowed to happen while driving. Forbid the use of a cell phone while driving, even to answer a call or text from you. You can even require your teen to lock their phone in the trunk or glove compartment while behind the wheel.
Don’t just accept an “I know, Mom” if your teen protests that they’re too smart to make stupid decisions while driving. Enforce the rules you’ve put in place. AAA reports that more and more drivers are taking selfies and posting them to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook – while they’re driving. It only takes a second for a fatal crash to occur.
A person’s eyes are off the road for an average of five seconds while texting, according to Distraction.gov. When driving at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field – essentially, blindfolded. If you and your teen want to see their high school football field again in the fall, keep them safe this summer with ground rules for driving and avoiding auto accidents.
Author Bio: David Christensen is an experienced personal injury attorney with Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. Christensen Law is an auto accident law firm that specializes in helping victims with traumatic brain injury from accidents.