Leading Cause of Death Among Teens: Car Crashes

Leading Cause of Death Among Teens: Car Crashes
December 12, 2013 Kim Goldman

Distracted driving happens regularly, whether you are a teen or an adult, we are all guilty of it!  Everyone at some point has been preoccupied by talking on the phone, text messaging, changing the radio station, applying make-up in the car, or eating while driving, all of which takes your focus off of the road. All of these fall into three categories of distraction:

   Visual: taking your eyes off the road
   Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
   Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

Did you know that in 2012, distracted driving led to 3,328 fatalities in driving crashes?  Did you know teens are more likely to die in traffic accidents than any other age group?  Why? Teens are more likely to be distracted by their passengers, the music playing in their car, cell phone and things that are happening on the side of the road.  In 2011, a CDC study found that students who text and drive, are twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking and driving than students who do no text and drive.  It was also reported that male teen drivers were almost six times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver, and twice as likely to act aggressively before crashing than when driving alone.

To show the severity of the problem, car crashes kill five times as many teenagers as cancer or poisoning.

In an effort to combat this growing epidemic, law enforcement agencies are putting stricter laws into place.  For example, California State driving laws make it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, unless it is a hands-free device, and it is also illegal to text while driving.  Additionally, it is also illegal to drive a motor vehicle with a TV or monitor screen in the vehicle, unless it is in the back of, or behind, the driver’s seat.

Click here for more information about driving laws in your state.

What can parents do to teach their teens about safe driving?

A recent survey found that only 25% of parents have a serious discussion about driving with their teen. The most important thing a parent can do to prevent distracted driving, is to model what good driving looks like when their children are in the car. Additionally, parental involvement has been shown to have a major effect on the way teens drive. Parents that combine both support and control in their parenting styles are more likely to prevent accidents, and risky driving in teens. These teens are also more likely to wear seat belts and follow the speed limit. Studies have also shown that teens that have to share a car are also less likely to use their cell phone while driving and follow the speed limit.

Click here for a great resource for parents of teen drivers, which provides resources and tips for how to best prepare your teen for their license, and what you can do to ensure their safety.

Take the pledge: AAA California has a parent-teen driving agreement for new drivers.  The pledge is contract which creates guidelines for new drivers to help ensure their safety while driving.  You can tailor it for your teen, in your state, but it’s a great template!

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