Car Accidents: A Leading Cause of Death in Teens

Despite interventions put in place to help reduce the number of teen fatalities, car accidents still top the list as the number one cause of death for individuals aged 15 to 20. And not only are teen drivers at risk, it was found that 63% of teen passengers killed in an auto accident, were in a car driven by another teen. And, the risk of crash increases with every teenage passenger in the car.

Ultimately, teen drivers continue to be challenged by their immaturity and lack of driving experience, issues that can only resolve over time. Knowing some of the risks involved in driving, as well as participating in programs that help reduce these risks may better assist teens in meeting the challenges they face on the road.

Male teen drivers face the highest risk of an auto accidents, and are two times more likely to be involved in a crash than their female counterparts. Other high-risk teens include those who just received their licenses and those driving a car with other teen passengers.

High-risk behaviors are also prevalent among teens, which may include avoiding seatbelts, speeding and alcohol consumption. Perhaps the greatest risk, however, is the irresistible urge to to talk and text from their mobile phones. In fact, these practices have been shown to equal or exceed the risk associated with drunk driving. Sadly, teenagers are often prone to both at the same time.

Proven methods do exist in helping to prevent teen fatalities from auto accidents. The Centers for Disease Control states that graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs can decrease fatalities among 16-year-old drivers as much at 38%. These programs are designed to give teens an opportunity to gain driving experience in a reduced risk setting that typically includes adult supervision. GDL programs may also prohibit cell phone use, restrict certain passengers, and limit nighttime driving, all behaviors that increase the risk of auto accidents.

Parental involvement is another factor in reducing the risks teenage drivers face. Indeed, research indicates teens with involved parents developed better driving habits, like remaining in acceptable speed limits and wearing seatbelts. According to the Research Institute at Children‘s Hospital of Philadelphia, teens were 30% less likely to use a cell phone while driving, were 70% less likely to drink and drive, and were half as likely to speed when they had parents actively engaged in setting boundaries and monitoring their activities.

There are also various on-line driver resources that can enhance traditional driver‘s education programs. The National Safety Council has several on-line courses, including “Alive at 25 Parent Program,” that helps parents and teens partner in driver safety. The web also has teen-led safety initiatives, like “Keep the Drive,” in which teens become the activists who spread the message of driver safety among their peers.

Unfortunately, auto accidents still rank highest in teen fatalities; however, most are preventable through risk awareness, experience, parental involvement, and additional training. In the end, time and experience will bring most teens safely through the precarious years of learning to drive.