Oct 29 2013
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Teen Driver Safety: 5 to Drive

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a new campaign that challenges parents to discuss with their teen drivers five practices that can prevent serious injuries and even deaths in the event of a crash:

  • No cell phone use or texting while driving
  • No extra passengers
  • No speeding
  • No alcohol
  • No driving or riding without a seat belt

NHTSA data show motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers 14-18 years-old in the United States. In 2011, 2,105 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes. Of those teens involved in fatal crashes, 1,163 (55 percent) survived and 942 (45 percent) died in the crash.

"Safety is our highest priority, especially when it comes to teens, who are often our least experienced drivers," said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The ‘5 to Drive’ campaign gives parents and teens a simple, straightforward checklist that can help them talk about good driving skills and most importantly, prevent a tragedy before it happens."

The list of precautions matches the top causes of death in teen crashes:

  • In 2011, over half of the teen occupants of passenger vehicles who died in crashes were unrestrained
  • Speeding was a factor in 35 percent of fatal crashes involving a teen driver
  • Twelve percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time
  • In 2011, 505 people nationwide died in crashes in which drivers ages 14-18 years had alcohol in their systems, despite the fact that all states have Zero Tolerance Laws for drinking under age 21

NHTSA research also finds that peer pressure is a contributing factor in teen crash deaths. When the teen driver in a fatal crash was not wearing a seat belt, almost four-fifths of that driver’s teen passengers were also unrestrained. And a teenage driver was 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behaviors when driving with one teenage passenger, but three times more likely when driving with multiple teenager passengers.

Additional NHTSA research found that poor decisions among teen drivers can lead to crashes and fatalities at any time of the day, but that they were most frequent between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and remained high until midnight.

>>Bonus Link: NHTSA provides a wealth of resources on safe driving for teens.

Tags: Pediatrics, Risky behavior, Safety, Transportation, Youth development