As most experienced drivers and parents know, teenage drivers are more likely to cause or be involved in a car accident than other drivers. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for America's teenagers. According to the CDC, 12 teens between 16 and 19 years old were killed in car accidents every day during 2005.
In that same year, over 400,000 teenage passengers sustained injuries in an accident that required medical treatment in an emergency room.
Why are teens at risk for injury or death due to a car accident?
The CDC identified a number of risk factors, such as:
Teen drivers tend to underestimate or not recognize dangerous driving conditions or situations.
Teen drivers are more likely to speed and not keep a proper distance between vehicles on the road.
Teens are less likely to wear seat belts than older drivers and passengers.
Of course, alcohol significantly increases the risk of injury or death. In 2005, nearly one quarter of fatal accidents involving teen male drivers were alcohol related. Tragically, 3 out of 4 teen drivers killed in an accident involving drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.
Sadly, these statistics confirm what many of us already know. But what can we do about it?
First, set a good example for out teen drivers. As adults, we should act like adults and not engage in aggressive or dangerous driving. Teach your teen not to drink and drive by example. And always wear your seat belt. These are common sense safety approaches to reducing accidents.
Another resource, specifically designed for young drivers, is graduated driver licensing programs. These programs are designed to allow teen drivers to get experience without the risks many of them will face, and they have been shown to reduce fatal crashes and accidents causing injury.
More information and resources, including information on graduated drivers licensing programs, is available on the CDC website, www.cdc.gov.
Donahoe Kearney, LLP represents victims of serious accidents in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.