It’s understandable that the parents of teen drivers worry about their safety. Parents concern themselves with their child’s well-being from even before birth. One does not have to look very hard in the current news to find sad and sometimes gruesome stories of how teen drivers who engaged in risky behaviors behind the wheel paid the ultimate price of death. Sometimes, these teens take with them their friends or family members who were riding in the vehicle, and they might even injure or kill drivers or occupants in other vehicles. With all of these well-publicized incidents, many people naturally assume that teen drivers in the United States are a big danger on the roads.
Such anecdotal evidence might make for good water cooler talk, but it does not prove that teens are any more of a danger than other groups of drivers.
Taking A Closer Look At Teen Driving Stats
The best way to understand the issue of teen drivers and risky behavior is to look at the cold, hard facts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), back in 2010 a staggering seven teens died on average every day as a result of injuries sustained from car accidents. The CDC also found that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 were three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers who are 20 years-old. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is an independent automotive safety group, says that car accidents are the top cause of death for 13 to 19 year-olds. These statistics, among many others, help establish that youth in America are more likely to die from car accidents than older drivers and passengers.
The Cause Behind The Facts
Why are teen drivers more likely to die than their older counterparts? One of the most prevalent factors is drinking and driving, which is one of the top causes of death when it comes to teenage drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded back in 2011 that 24 percent of youth who were behind the wheel and involved in a fatal crash had been drinking before. Law enforcement found that 26 percent of those drivers had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more. The study found that the problem is more pronounced with male teen drivers, with 28 percent of young men involved in fatal wrecks having been drunk at the time versus only 16 percent of young women.
When it comes to teen drivers, everything is not equal. The average person would likely guess that teenage boys are more likely to engage in risky behaviors behind the wheel. There is data that helps back up such suspicions. The CDC found that male teenage drivers are over twice as likely to die in a car crash as female teen drivers.
There are several other factors that put teen drivers much more at risk. One big risk factor is that teens are more likely to speed. Again, according to the CDC, 39 percent of male teen drivers who were involved in fatal accidents during 2010 were driving over the posted speed limit.
Experience is another big hit against younger drivers, who more often leave less room for error on the road and ignore potential pitfalls while traveling. Teens often fail to assess just how dangerous different situations are, such as driving in slick or foggy conditions.
Teens Are Getting Safer
The good news is that despite the high number of teens who are killed or seriously injured in car accidents, there is a downward trend that has been running for years. According to the NHTSA, fatalities of teen drivers has decreased from 3,838 in 2002 to just 1,987 in 2011, which makes for almost a 50 percent drop.
Parents can help protect their teenage drivers by taking various steps. Selecting a car that comes with advanced safety features is a smart move. Before making a purchase, parents should take the time to research online how different models have performed in crash tests. They should also keep in mind active safety features that help drivers avoid accidents, like backup cameras, blindspot monitoring systems, and forward crash mitigation features. There are even some newer car models that allow parents to place restrictions on where the car is driven, how fast it can go, and how loud the sound system’s volume can be turned up.
Another important step involves parents talking to their children. Instead of expecting driver’s education courses to do all the work, parents need to teach their children from early on why drinking and driving is dangerous, as well as about the dangers of driving while distracted. A solid example of safe driving as shown by parents is another way for teens to learn how to stay safe behind the wheel.