An article at cnn.com presents a wake-up call to both parents and teens. There are jokes and comedic sketches about teen drivers, but the reality is far from funny. Getting teen drivers to truly understand and appreciate the danger and responsibility of being behind the wheel is not easy. Statistics mean little to them, so the best way to get their attention is through stories of real incidents. Even then, they may not grasp that they, or their friends, can actually die in a car accident.
100 Deadly Days
The AAA published that over the last five years, accidents for drivers 16-19 increased 16% per day on average for the “100 deadliest days.” These days start with Memorial Day and continue for 100 days through the summer. It makes sense as teens are driving more, not just to and from school or on errands, but for all types of recreation. They aren’t on their usual routes and are thinking about the fun ahead. They’re also likely to have teen passengers along for the fun.
Top Causes of Teen Driving Accidents
The top cause of serious accidents was a surprise. Carrying passengers. That is more dangerous than texting or phone use. Many states, 43 currently, limit a teen driver to one teen passenger, but that’s a law that’s often ignored. The National Safety Council reports carrying passengers increases the probability of a fatal crash by a teen driver 44%. This is huge!
The University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center conducted a study of 52 North Carolina teen drivers with in-vehicle cameras positioned in their cars or trucks. They were recorded over six months in various driving situations – alone, with parents, and with other teens. Interestingly, when there were passengers they were more likely to limit use of technology, such as phones, radios, even the temperature control. Yet, the biggest reason for serious accidents was the presence of multiple passengers. Loud talking by friends was six times more dangerous than driving alone and horseplay was three times more likely to cause a serious accident.
John Ulczycki, the National Safety Council’s vice president of strategic initiatives, said, “Passengers are a distraction the entire time a teen is driving, whereas the distraction from texting is probably limited to the seconds or minutes they’re looking at screens instead of the road.” Ulczycki also said, “If you have a kid who had their license for less than one year, you have to think very, very carefully about the conditions or the situations in which you allow them to carry any passengers. You really do.”
Auto insurance rates for young drivers reflect the dangers of their inexperience. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, adult role models, and people who’ve experienced the tragic effects of teen driving must speak up to the young people in their lives. These admonitions are not a one-time conversation, but should be repeated multiple times over the teen years. Studies show you have more influence than you may think. Never regret the words you didn’t say that could have saved lives.