The impact of teen driver crashes reaches far beyond teen drivers’ families and friends, according to new research.
Approximately 681,000 people were involved in vehicle crashes where a teen driver was behind the wheel in 2008. More than 40,000 were injured, and nearly 30 percent of those who died in these crashes were not in cars driven by teens.
“When most people think about those affected by teen driver crashes, they think of the teens behind the wheel. We must also consider the significant impact of these crashes on other members of our communities: occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users,” said Dr. Dennis Durbin, of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. “Whether we have a teen driver in our family or not, we should all care about this issue. This report provides a concrete way to measure the effectiveness of laws, education, and other programs in reducing teen crashes and their impact on communities.”
This first annual report from State Farm Insurance Companies and CHOP uses data from diverse federal data sources and establishes 11 indicators to help safety practitioners and policymakers determine progress in key areas affecting teen driving safety.
This report is the first to compile this information into a single resource, making it more useful and accessible to those responsible for training, setting policy and curriculum standards.
Researchers focus on four key behaviors among teen drivers that contribute to crashes or crash fatalities, that can also be tracked using federal data sources:
- Failure to use seat belts
- Alcohol use
- Distracted driving
“Reducing speeding and alcohol use, increasing seat belt use, and eliminating distractions for teen drivers are the four calls-to-action we see in this report that would have a great impact on reducing injuries and fatalities for all road users,” said Dr. Durbin, co-author of the research, who is also an emergency physician.
More than 50 percent of teens fatally injured in crashes were speeding, 40 percent had a positive blood alcohol level, more than half were not wearing seat belts, and 16 percent of teen drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.
The report also shows that more teens die from car crashes than from homicide, suicide, and cancer combined. Teen driver and peer passenger deaths account for 24 percent of total teen deaths from any cause.
However, researchers say that teen fatalities are only the tip of the iceberg. Thousands more – including family members, friends, and others on the road – suffer physical injuries, disruption to their everyday lives and psychological trauma.
Research shows a majority of these tragedies are the result of inexperienced drivers and are preventable. Strong Graduated Driver Licensing laws, which give teens the opportunity to gain driving experience under lower-risk conditions, have proven to be effective. More traffic safety laws and public health programs should focus on the key teen behaviors known to raise crash risk: alcohol use, speeding, failure to wear a seat belt and distractions from peer passengers and cell phones.
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