Teen Drivers and Fatal Car Crashes
It is widely known and acknowledged that teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 years of age cause the most crash and traffic violations of any other age group. In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers across the United States. The question is why? There are many factors that play into this fact including not understanding consequences to risky driving, lack of experience, high usage of drugs and alcohol, distractions such as a car full of friends, and cell phone usage.
Teen Drivers and Fatal Car Crashes
Primary collision factors in fatal car crashes caused by 16-19 year old drivers:
- Unsafe Speed 35.3%
- Right of Way 20.6%
- Improper Turns 14.8%
- Sign/Signal 8.1%
- Alcohol/Drugs 5.1%
- Passing/Lane Change 4.3%
- Wrong Side of Road 3.1%
- *Distracted driving and other 8.7%
*Distracted driving includes texting and driving which is now known to be six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. It has now replaced drinking while driving as the leading cause of car accidents among teenagers.
Teen Drivers Primary Crash Risk Factors
Poor Hazard Detection
It takes time and practice to be able to identify potential hazards on the road. Teen drivers must gain perceptual and information gathering skills over time to be able to identify threats.
Low Risk Perception
Teen drivers have a tendency to underestimate a crash risk in a hazardous situation such as an icy road and overestimate their ability to navigate the hazard.
Teen drivers tend to be overconfident in their abilities and lack an understanding of consequences to risky behaviors like speeding, tailgating, running red lights, violating traffic signs and signals, making illegal turns, passing dangerously, texting while driving, and failure to yield to pedestrians.
Not Wearing Seat Belts
Teenagers have not gotten the message as clearly as adults; they do not wear seat belts as consistently as older drivers. This choice may have to do with a lack of understanding of consequences.
Lack of Skill
It takes time to master driving and vehicle handling skills and new teen drivers simply haven’t had the time.
Alcohol and Drugs
Teens often engage in partying and drinking or using drugs and some get behind the wheel and drive. Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a common cause of serious and sometimes fatal car crashes among teenage drivers. Possibly because of lack of skill, teenagers who drink and drive are at a much higher risk of being involved in a serious car accident than are older drivers with equal concentrations of alcohol in their blood.
When teens drive with passengers in the car the risk of being involved in a fatal car crash increases by three times; the more passengers, the higher the risk. Teen male drivers are particularly at risk with teen male passengers as they may encourage the driver to take unnecessary risks.
Night driving is particularly dangerous for teen drivers: the per mile crash rate is three times higher after 9 p.m. than during the day. Among other factors, this is likely because teen driving involving alcohol or drugs is more likely to occur at night.
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