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Teen Drivers at High Risk for Car Crashes

Teen Drivers remain at greater risk of involvement in a fatal crash than other drivers.

After 10 years of declining crash fatalities among teen drivers the number of teen-involved crash deaths in the U.S. increased by 10 percent in 2015.  What is more, the data from a Governors Highway Safety Teen Driver Crash Fatalities - Altizer LawAssociation study indicates that the decrease in fatalities among teen drivers is more likely to reflect improvements among younger teen drivers. This leaves older teen drivers (ages 18-20) at a high risk of involvement in a fatal car crash.

According to the study, “When the teen crash data is segmented by young and older teen drivers, the decline in fatal crashes is larger for younger (56%) than older teens (44%). The fatal crash rates per 100,000 licensed drivers for the two groups also showed better improvement for young versus older teens, at 51 percent and 40 percent, respectively. For both teen driver age groups, the rate is twice as high for males as it for females. A closer examination of the data by age also revealed that 19-year-olds accounted for the greatest number of teen drivers killed during this 10-year period, followed by 20- and 18-year-olds.”

The Graduated Driver Licensing program, in effect in all 50 states, has reduced the number of teen crashes by up to 30 percent. However, the program is not in effect for drivers aged 18-20 in most states. One factor affecting these findings is the trend among teens to wait until age 18 to obtain a driver’s license. The report estimates that one in three teens do not obtain a license until age 18.

Most states have adopted aggressive training and other programs for younger teen drivers. The findings of this study indicate that there is a compelling need to direct these programs to older teens, as well. Chronological age does not necessarily equate to conceptual maturity. Injury and fatality statistics clearly demonstrate that alcohol is too often a factor in teen crashes.

According to the report, some states already are expanding teen driver safety programs to include older teens. In some cases colleges and universities are participating in these efforts. Most programs are geared to increasing awareness of driving behaviors that are unsafe and teaching older teen drivers how to proactively protect themselves and their passengers. Many states combine with these programs high visibility enforcement efforts, as well.

The goal of these efforts always is to reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths resulting from irresponsible teen driving behaviors. Particularly for teens who do not obtain a driver’s license until age 18 or more, it may be necessary that parents, schools and society become proactive in teaching these drivers more about driver safety and the risks of key behaviors that contribute to accidents involving teen drivers.

The study suggests the following actions to reduce injuries and deaths caused by teen drivers.

■ Expand Graduated Driver Licensing requirements to include all teens under 21 years of age.

■ Require all novice drivers to complete driver education and training.

■ Actively promote the benefits of older teen drivers completing a defensive driving and/or behind-the-wheel program.

■ Send an early warning letter addressing the impact of engaging in unsafe driving behaviors to an older teen following receipt of his/her first moving violation.

■ Enact a primary seat belt law that covers all motor vehicle occupants in all seating positions.

■ Educate parents about the importance of continuing to coach and monitor their older teen (18-20-year-old) drivers.

■ Partner with colleges to promote safe driving.

■ Partner with graduating high school peer leaders to help them continue their traffic safety outreach in college.

■ Partner with law enforcement to conduct high visibility enforcement coupled with high school- and college-based education and earned/paid media.

■ Capitalize on the popularity of music and sports with teens to disseminate safe driving information/messages.



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