Teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 account for just a little over 6% of the drivers on roads in the United States. Parents provide teenagers with cars because they want their kids to be independent and not rely on them to get around. Unfortunately, this newfound independence can have consequences. Teenagers lack the ability to recognize hazardous driving situations and often forego caution when they’re driving and end up taking unnecessary risks. That’s why they’re more likely to get into accidents than experienced adults.
Some Facts Regarding Teen Driving
• In 2013, there were around 2,524 teenage fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents.
• Around 120 deaths happened when a motorcycle was involved in the accident.
• Around 55% of the high school students surveyed confirmed that they wore seatbelts when they drove.
• Around 22% of the teens surveyed admitted that they rode with a driver who had drunk alcohol.
• June (summer) had the highest number of car accident fatalities among teens. 260 individuals died in 2013 for this reason.
As you can see, teenagers are involved in an alarmingly high number of accidents and many of them involve fatalities or severe injuries. Even the most responsible teenagers give in to the temptation to go past the speed limit or check their phones while driving.
Teen drivers don’t just place themselves in risk, but also everyone else present on the road and inside the vehicle. A recent study conducted by AAA or American Automobile Association concluded that 10 people die as a result of teen driving accidents every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Most of these accidents happen because the teenager is distracted during driving.
What is Driver Distraction?
A driver can be distracted by a number of things inside and outside the vehicle. Adult drivers learn to keep their attention focused on the road and on their vehicles but they too can also get distracted. Teenagers are more prone to driver distraction than adults; that, coupled with a teenager’s tendency to be reckless while driving in general can lead to serious accidents. Many speculate that around 60% of accidents involving teenage drivers are caused due to driver distraction. Here are some facts that support that:
• In a nationwide survey, about 32% of high school students admitted that they texted or sent an email while they were driving.
• 56% of the teens surveyed admitted that they spoke on their cell phone while at the wheel.
• 34% of individuals between the age of 16 and 17 admit that they send or respond to messages while driving.
• 48% of individuals between the ages of 12 to 17 admitted that they were present in the car when the driver was distracted by texts and messages.
According to research, talking on cell phones can significantly slow the reaction time down and doubles the chances of an accident. Teenagers are likely to respond as slowly as 70-year old drivers if they’re distracted by a phone call.
Teen Drivers and Underage Alcohol Consumption
Teenagers can be reckless and take risks and the presence of alcohol in their system only aggravates this. According to the non-profit organization MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving):
• Around 25% of all teen car accidents with fatalities involve underage drinking while driving.
• Nearly 6% of individuals of the age 16 and 17 admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol.
• Over 15% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol.
• 13% of students in 12th grade admitted to driving under the influence.
• According to a survey conducted by the CDC, 17% of young drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 in fatal vehicle crashes had a BAC of .08% or higher, which is considered the legal limit for people over the age of 21.
Underage drinking is also more likely to happen during summer when teenagers attend parties, sleepovers, and go out on trips together.
The Connection Between Summer and Teenage Accidents
Summer is considered the worst time for teen driving and this time is also known as “100 Deadliest Days for Teenage Driving”. Teenagers consider summer a time for freedom and fun. They consider themselves free from responsibilities and use their vehicles for more than just to drive to the local mall to go to school. Teenagers drive farther and go on longer trips during summer because they have more time on their hands.
This increases the likelihood of them being involved in accidents and being reckless. Parents need to be extra vigilant and communicate with their children, especially during summer. Experts have observed that regular communication between parents and teenagers regarding driver’s safety can encourage them to be more cautious and not indulge in as many risky behaviors.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents of teenagers can minimize the chances of teen accidents by teaching their children good driving habits and being aware of the risks involved. Here are some steps parents can take:
• Come to an Agreement – Before handing the teenager keys to their new car, parents can discuss some basic rules to follow. For example, parents can come to an agreement with their children that the car keys will be taken away if they text while driving.
• Switching Cell Phones or other devices Off – Parents can encourage their children to switch the device off and place it in the center console while driving. That’ll ensure they’re not distracted by calls or message ringtones.
• Music – Most teenagers use apps like Spotify or Pandora. Parents can encourage them to use the car’s existing system instead as that’ll minimize the likelihood of distraction and accidents.
Parents can also drive with their children and be in the passenger’s seat. They can teach safe driving techniques and encourage driving awareness.
What Can You Do?
If you’re involved in an accident with a teen driver, be sure to contact the authorities and get legal assistance immediately. A lawyer will protect your interests and ensure the case is handled fairly for all parties involved.